All that will do is raise taxes and give free shit to those lazy welfare people who sit around and let other people work to support them. --J. Q.
I'd like to excuse him on the basis of being sixteen and stupid. He's never had a day of hunger in his life. He's never had to work to put his Abercrombie & Fitch clothes on his back. He doesn't pay the bills for his funky little I-Phone and the I-Pod that's constantly plugged into his ears.
At least he has that excuse, if you consider it one. There are plenty of others who don't.
I don't get into political crap on my blog, generally speaking. I'm an independent, somewhat left-leaning, somewhat middle-of-the-road reluctant voter who hates conflict. I have friends spread out all over the political spectrum. Some of them would fight like cats and dogs if put in the same room. They're all good people. They all have what they believe are good reasons for their stances. Sometimes, I agree. Sometimes, I don't. Usually, I keep my mouth shut.
I do, however, believe in social justice. I believe that we are commanded by God to care for the poor and abandoned, the orphan and the widow, the persecuted, the least of these. So do most, if not all, of those friends I mentioned. How that is to be done? Ah. Well, that's where the debate begins, isn't it?
I'm not here to debate that point. I am here to speak out about the reality of poverty, a reality that far too few of those outspoken people know first hand. Today I read an amazing guest post by Mad over at Frog and Toad are Still Friends. This is the reality of poverty in America, a form of poverty that is overlooked by so many of the smug White Tower WASPS. (And yes, I know they're not all actual WASPS and and this is a generalization, but you get what I'm saying. Let's move on.)
I have been fortunate in my life. My parents were never wealthy, and apparently there were times that were lean indeed, but I never remember going hungry or without. We always had presents at Christmas and dinner on the table. I was able to go to college, although I racked up debt doing so. I earn a good wage and can provide for my own children in turn. My boys are well-dressed, well-fed, and have toys up the wazoo. I don't worry about whether they have enough; I worry about whether they have too much.
There was a year in college when I had very little money. I did not have a job, and I was getting by on macaroni and cheese, cheap frozen salisbury steak, bread, and tater tots. I became ill after a few months, and the doctor at MSU's Olin Health Center told me that I had no choice but to get some vegetables and fruits into my diet. We scrimped and sacrificed to add some canned vegetables, to add just enough nutrition that my body would not shut down.
And even then...I had a roof over my head. I had food in my belly. I was still going to school. I knew it was a temporary situation. If push came to shove, there was family that would help. I was still fortunate.
I have witnessed true poverty. My parents earned less combined than I did alone my first year of teaching. Compared to the vast majority of people where I grew up, however, we were wealthy. We were surrounded by the least of these.
About five years ago my parents received news about a small family they had taken under their wings: a widow with many health issues who had two children and no support whatsoever. No one took care of them. Her children were bright and hard-working. They wanted to get educations, but the cost of schooling was prohibitive (no "free" public education over there, you see). The mother earned a few francs here and there by picking mangoes from the trees in my parents' yard and selling them in the market. Abou, her son, who was one of my brother's best friends, and Giisongi, her daughter, would work around my parents' house. They would bake bread and cookies, clean, do odd jobs. There still often was not enough to pay the school fees, which ran around $200 a year. Nothing much to us Americans, but astronomical to a family that lived on a few dollars a week, if they were lucky. I remember doing a fund-raiser with one of my classes to raise the money to send them to school for one year. We were able to raise enough in one month, mostly through bottle returns. That's all it took.
When civil war broke out and my family was evacuated, then lived here in Michigan for three years before it was safe enough for my parents to return, that little family was left without even that much assistance. Every now and then they would hear from Abou, who would call them on a friend's cell phone. But it wasn't until a mutual friend called and talked to my father that my parents found out just how much that family was struggling.
Do you know what "chaff" is? It is the papery husk that covers certain kinds of grain, such as wheat and rice. It has no nutritional value. It is removed during the threshing of grain. Since it is worthless, it is often abandoned on the ground.
This little family no longer had money for even the most basic of foods. So they were going to the areas where women would thresh grain, and they would gather up the chaff left in piles on the ground. They then would put the chaff in a pot with water and boil it into a tasteless, gritty porridge. If they were lucky, perhaps there would be a little bit of vegetable to add.
They may have been tricking their bellies into thinking they were being fed, but the truth was that they were slowly starving to death.
Ah, but that's in a third-world country! you say. It's not that bad here!
Want a taste of reality? Go read this. Or this. The reality is that poverty is alive and well (so to speak) in America too.
This is the harsh truth, folks. As a species, we haven't been doing too well on the social justice front. The wealthier and more comfortable we are, the more distanced we become from the reality of those who are less fortunate. We sit in our ivory towers and mutter about the laziness of the poor, how only the deserving should receive.
Those weren't the commands given to us by Christ. He didn't say to do good unto the least of these--if they've shown they deserve it. And Paul didn't qualify his words in James 1 as caring for widows and orphans who have worked hard enough to be rewarded.
I think a lot of us--and yes, this includes me--need to reread Matthew 5 a few
Because apparently I'm in a self-flagellating mood today and want to invite conflict (dear God, my stomach hurts now), I'm going to go ahead and Flog My Blog on this post of all posts. My darling Brenda over at MummyTime does Flog Yo Blog Fridays, and I've been meaning to do this, and so, whatever, I'll be brave and do it now. Click on over and check it out!