Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Thoughts about the poor

It's been a while since I've written but I've been half writing this post all day long. Unfortunately I never had my fingers on the computer keyboard when I was writing it. The first time, I was still lying in bed early this morning, barely awake. Perhaps I came out of a dream that related, though I can't remember the dream at this end of the day. But I'm thinking about the poor, the marginalized, all those who are on the outskirts of society.

Yesterday Beve and I went to a movie. And I used a cane. Lately when I've ventured out of the house, the cane has been a great aid in keeping my bum left leg steady when I'm still not quite able to look down and check for uneven pavement. But a cane as accessory creates an interesting dynamic in public. People cut wide swathes around a person with a cane. They open doors as though they had all been trained at the finest finishing schools, and pull each other out of the way as if the oh-caned-one was double the girth and needed extra room to wash her hands in the restroom. It's a very interesting phenomenon, one that disabled people have always experienced, but something new to me.

It's something that anyone who is outside of the mainstream must feel. When I say outside of the mainstream, I'm talking those who live in poverty. Poverty creates a different kind of setting-apart. It's all about marginalizing people, looking at them as a 'them' and not 'us.' And yes, cutting a wide swath around them.

As I've said before here, I freely admit I've never been poor. My life has been unrelentingly middle-class, from beginning to end. However, from India, to Alaska to Mexico I've spent time with impoverished people. And my first job after college was working with mentally-disabled adults. So I have a heart for the marginalized. It's nothing special for me to write that. Indeed, it's no special heart, like someone might have a 'heart' for a specific people group, because the one people-group we were commanded to care for were the poor. "The poor you will always have with you," Jesus told us. In Matthew 25, when He talks about the sheep and the goats, He tells His disciples that "that which you do for the least of these you do for me." The least of these were the poor, the sick, the naked, the imprisoned. And James says that "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress..." (James 1: 27).

This is the basis for my political leanings. I know that there are lynch-pin, hot-button issues for everyone. For farmers, agricultural concerns make the democrats' left-wing 'tree-hugging' stances a bitter pill. The republican plans are always better for them. I understand that. It makes sense to me. But don't talk to me about economics. My eyes glaze over when we start talking million, billion, ga-zillion dollars. I don't get it. Honestly. I'm not trying to sound stupid about it, or have my head in the sand, I just don't get macro, micro, or any other kind of economics. What gets my blood moving is how we can care for our people. And what our people need.

And this is what I think: If we really care for the marginalized, the poor and disabled among us (and perhaps I shouldn't lump them together, but I am at the moment), we would care for them. For example, we would see to it that every child has the opportunity to have an education. Oh wait, we already do that. It's only reasonable. And we'd feed them because they don't always get food at home. And we're doing that. Also a reasonable thing to do, right? And give them medical attention when they need it.

Now I've beginning to sound like a radical, right? Almost like a socialist. Or exactly like a socialist.
But I'm not so sure it's such a terrible idea. To me, it sounds like the way the gospel works. That we care for the weak and hurting among us. That we who are strong and have more, carry the burden for those who cannot. "The poor you shall always have among you." What did He mean by this? Did He want us to ignore them? Or to actually live in such a way that we help them?

That's my first cliff dive.
I'm sure it's a whole lot more complicated than this, but I live with a man who spends most of his days with families who have not.
That's it, just have not.
And he gets grows weary of the options that aren't open to them because of what they don't have. So this is what I've been praying today as I think about the poor among his students. How do we serve and care for them? And specifically, how do I help Beve carry the burden he carries for them?

1 comment:

E said...

I often wonder the same thing -- what can we do to really change things?