Johnston County

Wheeler: Caught between love and hatred

That the same column could move one reader to immediately reach for a checkbook and another to whip out the stakes and matches perfectly illustrates the extreme polarization of our society.

Anybody else weary of it?

When I wrote last week about Linda and Frank Alves, a Clayton couple struggling to raise four grandchildren, and their mission to get subsidies for kinship guardians, I didn't take a position on their quest. When you understand there are 98,000 grandparents in North Carolina (not to mention aunts, uncles and neighbors) responsible for other people's children, a quick calculation makes it pretty clear that paying guardians what we pay foster families (roughly $500 a month per child) doesn't seem feasible.

But the growing number of grandparent guardians - and the fact that the state itself makes it a priority to keep families and siblings together - made the issue worth highlighting.

I focused on the children, even as I feared that the Alveses' situation - their two unwed daughters have what will be six children between them with no fathers in the picture - would unleash a torrent of hatred. There is no satisfaction in being right.

There is great, wonderful satisfaction, however, in the number of other people who called and emailed - just wanting to help.

Jennifer Jakes' children are smaller than the ones the Alveses are rearing, but the Apex woman thought she could get some friends to donate clothes and shoes.

"My husband and I, we don't make a lot of money, but I've just been so lucky my whole life," she said. "I feel like I'm reading more and more about grandparents raising kids. I've got two little ones, and they wear me out. Being grandparents, maybe in their 50s or 60s, I don't know how they're doing it. It breaks your heart."

Kim Crowder of Raleigh also wanted to know where she could send some clothes.

"They just jumped right into helping the children, and they're trying their best," she said of the Alveses. "They've raised their children the best they could, and the children's choices are not the best, but you can't just abandon them."

And then there was, among others, Arlen Boyce, a man after my own heart.

"These children are our future. If we don't take care of them now, then what's our future going to be like?" asked Boyce, of Wake Forest. "God has blessed me in so many ways. He's put us here to help other people. And the position I'm in at work now, I'm able to help people more than I was last year, so I have been.

"He has blessed me," Boyce said. "I intend to do more not only for this family but for others in that situation I hear about, too."

That's my position, for the record. If a greater number of good people and faith communities focused more on helping people in need and less on politics and multimillion-dollar edifices, then maybe fewer of us would rely on the government - yes, us the taxpayers - as a safety net.

May you find me extreme only in my compassion.