I honestly don’t know if I
have all of the answers. The more
research and thinking I do around this topic of poverty the questions that I
have. What does compassion look
like? How can we help those who refuse
to help themselves? How can we tell who really is helpless?
What I do know is that what
we have been doing for over a century now is simply not working. Look at the numbers. The numbers of people living in poverty in
this nation of opportunity are increasing.
The desperation is increasing.
More people are hungry while at the same time more people are growing
obese. How does that happen? Morals and values have been thrown out the
window. We must try something
Poverty and homelessness is much more complicated than just give someone a job or a home. We must get to know individuals and empower them to experience a new life. We must quit treating these men and women as animals to be herded and treated as a group. Each person and each family is unique. What got one person into homelessness will be different than another person’s cause.
Handouts simply will never work. We must transition to a hand up. It will take strong leadership and compassionate people to make a difference and change the direction of the rate of poverty. Together though we can do this. Let me know how I can help. Email me at email@example.com.
This is where our biggest
challenge will be. I once met a man who
showed me an x-ray of his broken pinky finger (just the tip looked
broken). He insisted that this should
qualify him for disability. The truth is
that his disability is that he was lazy. He expected his live in girlfriend to bring in
the bacon, care for the kids and clean the house while he would hang out with
his friends and play basketball in the backyard. What can we possibly to with men or women
As long as his girlfriend
supports him there will be little that we can do. This man will call every church in town
(using his smart phone) to plead, beg and ask for help in order to supplement
her income. The poverty mindset is that
as long as he is a lover and fighter he is a keeper. Eventually, though that woman will come to
her senses and will want to be with a man that will take care of her. She deserves more and when she realizes it
than we can help him out with job training, etc.
Assuming that he rejects
that, we must allow him to feel the pain of his choices. A safe and secure group home where he has
limited rights and privileges might be in order. While living there he would be offered opportunities
to overcome the disease of laziness. With work will come freedoms and more
opportunities to live a good life. By
the way, we already have these, they are called prisons. What I am recommending here for those that
desire to be a drain on society is that they get compassion and help but that
they pay for that care by giving up a portion of their rights.
those ready to move ahead
Now these are the people
that most excite me!
Imagine that they move to a
life recovery home. There would be
separate wings for married couples, single men and single women. This place would offer food and shelter in a
safe and secure environment. During the
day they would attend classes and participate in job training. At night they return to their home. They would still have curfews like the other
homes but this location would have more variety of food. They would have a later curfew. Along the way house parents would help them
learn basic life skills to include parenting, home cleaning, budgeting and other
important skills. Graduation
requirements would require them to have a job along with good attendance and
participation in all training. Most
people would need to spend 18-24 months in this training. But those that graduate would be entitled to
apply to the tiny houses program listed below.
Imagine a small gated community
where the neighbors all know each other.
Each home is owned or is being paid for by those that are living
inside. The houses are not very large. But they all provide a kitchen, bedrooms and
a living room for family times. This
community requires everyone to attend a weekly community meeting to resolve
conflicts and any other issues. Drug and
alcohol use is strictly prohibited in this little community. Neighbors watch out for each other and
encourage each other. In the back yard
of each home is a small vegetable garden growing the owner’s favorite
veggies. Close to the house lining the
sidewalk up to their homes are rows of flowers that highlight the fresh flowers
growing in flower boxes below the windows of the home. In the center of the neighborhood is a large
hydroponics plant where some of the residents work. Others work to sell the vegetables and the
fish to nearby restaurants and grocery stores.
Profits would be used to make neighborhood improvements. When the family has stabilized and is doing
well they can choose to stay or if they desire they can sell their home to
others who are graduating the program.
This will give them the starter money to purchase a home in the regular
a fairly standard neighborhood. Within
this neighborhood are businesses, churches, schools and residents.
churches take the lead in reaching out to their neighbors. Pastors would no longer simply be a pastor to
those who walk through their doors, but instead would serve as a shepherd for
the entire neighborhood. Most neighborhoods
here have multiple churches. Regardless
of denominations pastors could choose to work with other churches on this
portion of the community.
they get to know their neighborhood businesses and residents they would assess
the needs. The churches could act as a
connecting service. A resident needs a
job, they would connect the person to the business. The business needs employees the churches
would connect the residents to the business.
If a resident needed help with a broken appliance. The church would examine the ranks of their
members and connect the expert to the problem.
would encourage everyone in their neighborhood that they are valuable and can
add something to the community. The
residents would be encouraged to work, be employed and serve the neighborhood.
The churches would also adopt the local school and again provide connections between resources and students. This might include tutors, school supplies or after school care. This would also include celebrations of students graduating or preparing to go to college.
As part of this process the churches would serve as the central
connection point for the time bank. What
this looks like is that in the neighborhood is a single mom who is really good
at house painting. She would paint the
house of the mechanic down the street who works too many daylight hours to get
to the task. The mechanic buys the
paint. The Mechanic fixes the car for the widow around the corner. Again the widow buys parts but the mechanic
puts her car all together. The widow
watches the single moms kids so that it is worthwhile for her to go to
work. Everyone is giving and everyone is
receiving. It won’t always be that clean
and some work will be put into the bank to be used at a future time but the
church can manage a single neighborhood.
An important note is that the churches are not to provide all of the resources but rather to serve as a simple connection to the needs.
Much of the conversation around health care
in the United States has revolved around health insurance. Health insurance only helps if you get sick. But that is only part of the problem. Have you ever had to deal with insurance
companies? They can find a loop hole and
they use more tiny print than any other industry. If they can find a way not to pay out they
will do so. Recently I learned that it
is not much better from the doctor’s side of things as they deal with these
insurance companies. Additionally the
concept of using insurance to solve our health problems is increasing the
There has got to be a better way to help
people who are sick get well.
Among the concepts with
promise is community or neighborhood clinics.
These clinics would be staffed by medical and nursing students. In essence grants would pay for their
education and in return these students to include doctors that have recently
graduated would operate the clinics.
These doctors get to know the neighborhoods most common issues. Which health issues seem to be
environmentally related? Is there
something that we could change that would make the neighborhood healthier? This medical staff could provide annual
training for people in the neighborhood to provide a multitude of prevention
information. This concept would increase
the supply which will lower the overall cost of health care in our nation.
Better than working to treat those who are
sick I present the following as areas that we can focus on to reduce the number
of sick people in the first place. This
would more honestly represent health care instead of sick care.
who has health, has hope. And he who has hope, has everything.”
While there are multiple ideas on what
constitutes good nutrition there are some basic things that are agreed
upon. First is that processed food is
generally bad for your long term health.
Yes it can feed the hungry. But
in the long term much of it leads to obesity and a whole range of other health
issues. Take a moment to look at the
ingredients list on most of the processed foods. How many of those ingredients can you easily
pronounce? That should make us
nervous. In truth most of those in the
middle and wealth class eat some of those foods but also have the resources to
experience fresh foods and meals where one can easily pronounce all of the
ingredients. Overall the impact of
processed foods for these two classes is reduced. What about those in poverty? When you look through most food banks a large
amount of the food that is given away comes from this processed food
category. Unfortunately we as a society
have now trained the taste buds of these men and women. They now prefer this food to the detriment of
their own health.
At the shelter where I work we will put out
vegetables and fruit with meals and with snacks. Very few will even look at it twice before
passing on the veggies and heading for whatever else might be served. We typically get around this by serving soups
where most of the food groups are covered in one bowl.
This will take time but we must make the
adjustment to fresh foods for those in poverty.
Yes it will cost more up front but it will save us a great deal in the
long run. Think of this in terms of
Those who eat healthy are better employees.
Those that eat healthy have fewer colds and
take fewer sick days.
Those that eat healthy have more emotional
Those that eat healthy have fewer heart
Those that eat healthy are less likely to
experience the unhealthy effects of obesity.
Thinking of nutrition in this way will
enable us to help people rise out of poverty by helping them get into the work
force and stay there.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
― Benjamin Franklin
I once knew a woman who would go to church
on Sunday and then spend most of the rest of the week in her recliner. When visiting with her it was obvious that
she rarely moved from the chair. Her
fridge was right there within arms reach and she had a hot plate and microwave
also within arms reach. If she had
thought of a bed pan I started to believe that she would never get up from that
chair that also served as a bed. The lack
of activity ultimately took a toll on her body and she did not live to be very
Lack of movement is at a critical stage in
our nation. In the past people would
walk most places and enjoyed an abundance of fresh air. With all of our modern technology we can
order in food, watch movies on demand and never leave the comfort and safety of
our homes. Too many maintain a job where
they are stuck behind a desk.
We must get moving again. Most that do choose exercise do it through an
appearance motive. But exercise does
much more than that. Exercise enables
your heart to grow stronger. Your lungs
take in fresh air and start to pass that oxygen on into your blood stream. With a healthy diet your muscles and bones
benefit greatly from this exercise and you will experience more joys in your
I have a friend who is still active at 92
years old and is living life unlike the kids of 81 and 85 that he routinely
visits. While he is slowing down and
definitely does not move as fast as he once did, he is still an active man who
is enjoying his life. Compare that to
many that I see at nursing homes. My
young niece had her first experience at the nursing home to visit my
grandfather. When she walked in she
noticed all of these people sleeping in their wheel chairs and she asked if
they were all dead. That is what awaits
someone who does not get and remain active.
For those in poverty the impact of losing
mobility can even be life threatening.
They are more likely to be robbed, hurt and left for dead. Think back to the story of the Good
Samaritan. Additionally, loss of health
may prove costly if they are younger as most are working for an hourly
wage. Less hours of work equals less
pay. We need to encourage those in
poverty to exercise at least 30 minutes a day.
Healthy eating and exercise can take people
a long way toward an overall more satisfying life. However, consider other areas that will make
for a healthier lifestyle
. Offering incentives, encouragement and
training to help people quit smoking can help them rise out of poverty. A majority of those in poverty may not be
able to afford food and healthcare but they find a way to buy a pack of
smokes. What if that money could be used
for something that won’t lead to future health issues?
Clean is free. Having a clean and orderly home can also lead
to good physical health. Since this may
not have been a part of the culture of poverty this would be a good place for a
mentor to step in and teach and then offer accountability to come back and make
sure that they are keeping up with their cleanliness.
All of these things and likely more
thoughts are really about health care and in most cases would save a great deal
of money and time.
1) Develop a health
protection plan for yourself. Include
all of the areas listed above. Develop
one for your family.
Education needs to quit proselytizing kids
into a humanist world view and focus on the life skills that are going to help
these young people grow up to be great workers and citizens. Currently we push kids to attend twelve years
of school and then encourage them to consider trade school and college. I read recently the following thoughts.
What if we made athletes always practice
but never have a game? Would they sense
a purpose? Most athletes will push
themselves through drills and practices so that they can get good at the
In the same way we need to prepare kids for
the real world. Testing needs to
replicate some real life situations in order to be effective. Consider this idea. The school year starts out with a basic
science lesson on plants. The kids learn
some things about the plants and how they grow best. There is also a discussion on the economics
of plants. How much one can expect for a
seedling or even the fruit or vegetables.
The kids would then use math to figure out what plants the class should
invest in. An informed teacher could
also include history of certain plants and how cultures have risen or fallen on
the prosperity of these plants. As the
plants grow the kids are learning more about math, science history and
Along the way the class could elect
leaders that will help make some of the decisions and a good teacher could even
replicate unions and corporations into the study.
At the end of the year the kids would sell
the plants or the produce of the plants.
As a celebration if the kids make a profit they could have a celebration
dinner or donate the money to charity.
There are multiple ways to even improve on this simple concept.
I read of one school that put together
trials regarding critical historical events.
The kids dressed up in period costumes and took on all of the standard
court appointed roles. The kids learned
much about the actual historical situation and also about the court
system. This was done in an actual court
room where a judge met with the kids and helped them through the process. By the time the project was done the kids had
a great understanding not only of history and the court system, they had fun
It is critical that we remember that
schools were designed to prepare kids for the work force. By a well rounded curriculum as spelled out
above this would be possible.
Regardless, all education based programs need to include the following
if they are going to effectively help kids prepare for life above the poverty
Sense of Purpose
At about eleven years old a young man
decided that he wanted to play baseball for the New York Yankees. This purpose
shaped his entire life. Even as a
teenager he recognized that the choices he was making could enable or disable that
dream. He chose healthy food and
exercise. He chose to avoid crime
figuring that jail would not help his chances of making the big leagues. In those difficult teen years he was
concerned that he could get a young lady pregnant and then have to quit
baseball to take care of a little family.
As a result he chose to not date much in High School. There is much more but ultimately this young
man played shortstop for the New York Yankees, Derek Jeter.
The point is that a destination and a
hopeful dream can make a huge difference in people’s lives. School and work seem to have no meaning
unless there is an ultimate purpose. In
college I was a dishwasher. On the
surface it seemed meaningless. But
really it was teaching me servant hood and humility. Additionally it was keeping me on campus and
out of trouble. Finally it was giving me
some money that got me through college with much less debt. This seemingly pointless job had a great
purpose in making me the man I am today.
Help students find purpose in even the most
mundane tasks will benefit them when they are adults.
Healthy Self Esteem
Now I know that some of you are rolling
your eyes on this one. But hear me out
here. I am not talking about giving
everyone a trophy. What I am saying is that everyone has something they are
good at, go find that thing and encourage that thing. People, ALL people have value. Unfortunately, for too many they fail to
discover and find that value. That is a
task that schools are uniquely designed to do.
Too often in schools there becomes a focus on what a student fails at
instead of focusing on their strengths.
Now there may be a need to help someone that is failing in one subject
to master the basics, I am not suggesting we ignore those things. But what is this person really good at, how
can we help that person to succeed.
I once read about a chronically poor
student who seemed to be doodling and
goofing off in most of his classes.
One day the teacher caught a glimpse of what the student was working
on. It was a fantastic picture of a
shoe. With a short conversation the
teacher discovered that this student had designed several different styles of
shoes. An idea blossomed in the
teacher. Soon after the teachers were
incorporating foot related elements into the lessons. History, math, science and even literature
came to life for this young man. Today
that young man is working for a major shoe company as a designer.
In the standard school there would have
been simply a focus on getting him to pay attention and to do his homework. Instead finding the young man’s dreams and
adjusting the lessons to connect to that dream made him feel good. That feeling good translated into life
a Sense of Discipline
Too often in schools we get stuck on the
actual academics of educating the boys, girls, men and women that attend those
schools. But what we often forget is
that school also trains us for the work world.
You must be in a class at a specific time. That sounds like most jobs that I have held
over the years. At school you have
expectations in homework, attendance and tests.
In the work world you will often have to conduct research, show up on
time and present yourself to customers.
At school you will also need to work around tricky relationships. That also happens at the work place.
We live in a quitter society that quits the
moment things get too difficult. It
takes discipline to push through the difficulty and get to the prize. In passing a difficult exam it is rarely
comfortable staying up late and digesting incredible amounts of
information. The stress of the test also
takes a certain amount of discipline as you focus an consider how best to
12:11Nodisciplineseemspleasantat the time, but painful. Later on,
however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have
been trained by it.
Gaining in discipline prepares one not
simply for work but for life. Marriages,
parenting, healthy living all require discipline. Our schools need to focus on helping kids
move from external motivators to internal motivations for discipline.
Develop a Vision of Opportunity
I was working at a shelter for women and
children. One afternoon I was visiting
with one of the teenage boys that was staying there with his mom. We engaged in lots of small talk about
school, sports and girls and then the conversation shifted to the future. Curious, I asked the young man what he wanted
to be when he graduated High School.
There was a long awkward pause and after a few moments he shrugged. “I
don’t know maybe I can get a job at Taco Bell.”
Now don’t get me wrong, Taco Bell is a fine place to work. I do love to eat there when the opportunity
rings. But for a High School boy full of
potential and promise dreams of working at Taco Bell it threw me off. This was the best he could imagine for his
life. He did not dream of managing or
owning a Taco Bell but simply hoped to maybe someday get a job there.
This is where schools must get busy and
develop dreams for our young people.
Help them to imagine what can be.
Dig deep and help people find their passions that maybe have died. Challenge our young people to rise up and
solve the problems of our society.
many like the young man that I was visiting with at the shelter have learned to
settle. We can solve the problems of our
nation and our world. They will not be
easy to solve or it would have been done already. We can solve poverty in our community. We can solve racism and discrimination in all
its forms. We can solve any problem that
we can imagine. But it is going to take
us dreaming and hoping and wanting more for the future of our world.
We choose to go to the moon. We
choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because
they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to
organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that
challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to
postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.
-John F Kennedy
a thirst for knowledge.
For most of the past twenty years I have
had a stack of books on my dresser or on my desk. The pile never seems to shrink though I read
a book a week. But let me tell you what
happens. While reading a book the author
will quote someone else or tell a story from history and suddenly I get excited
about that person or place or time. I do
some research and order some books from the library or the online book
store. I want to know more, learn more
and be more. There is so much
interesting information out there. I
wish that I had more time to learn it all, to experience it all.
I have traveled all over Europe and have been
to South America. I knew some things
about history and culture of the places I went to. I learned a ton while there. But sometimes a book or article will point
out some fact that I missed in my travels and I want to go back to take more
What would happen if we made learning so
much fun and so exciting that movie cinemas would find it difficult to fill the
theater? Open the minds of our young
people to research history and discover all of the incredible and different
ways of thinking that are out there. Let
them learn from history and other cultures more than from social media.
If knowledge becomes exciting enough we
might need to move toward 24 hour libraries instead of all night shopping. Create a passion for learning and I am believing
that someone might stumble on the cure for baldness, cancer or any other
illness that is wrecking our society.
1) What are the factors that
keep us from making the recommended change of focus? How can we overcome those factors?
2) Conduct a study to discover a person in your
community that developed a dream from childhood and made it into a productive
life. (Like the Derek Jeter example above)
In many circles there is a call for
strengthening the safety net so that men and women who are experiencing poverty
have a safe place to land when those difficult times come. There seems to be a movement to include more
and more people that can be caught in the net and in theory lessen the damage
that poverty typically inflicts.
However, in truth the cost of keeping this
safety net in place continues to escalate every year with few tangible
results. Yes the net does keep many
people from hitting the solid floor, however, it also does not tend to let them
go and climb back to the heights from which they have fallen. So the net becomes more and more full and as
a result the costs will continue to escalate until eventually the whole system
will crash leaving many hurt, disillusioned and society in a crisis.
A better safety net is the family as the
first net. When parents need extra care,
instead of dumping them at nursing homes what if we helped families to care for
their loved ones? What if when a mother
loses her husband that there is an extended family to help with childcare or
offer temporary support? For the most
part this also keeps folks from getting hurt.
There is greater accountability because the funder and caregiver (the
same person) is closer to the action.
They know for example if help is being squandered by drug use or wasted
in other unhealthy behaviors.
A second level of safety net that can help
when people burn the trust of the family safety net would be the church.
With just a little bit of training the
church can step in to help in those cases where relationships are
strained. If churches work together they
could keep rescue missions and treatment centers running for those that seep
through the family safety net.
Even with these two safety nets that again
cost the government very little there will be those who refuse to make changes
to be a positive person in our communities.
This is where the government safety net could actually operate in a way
that benefits society. For those that
choose crime the safety net would be jail.
For those that refuse to work then the old fashioned concept of a poor
house with little in the way of comfort could be the answer. The message to those in the poor house would
be, “If you want to work we will help you get training, clothing and
transportation. When you work you get to
have freedom of no curfew, extra nice things, better entertainment, etc. If you
choose not to work than society needs to care for you with the least amount of
reason there will be no change is because the people who stand to lose from
change have all the power. And the people who stand to gain from change have
none of the power”
– Niccolò Machiavelli.
Only together can we hope to make a
sustainable difference. Great programs
often come out of private and social and even government sectors that really
can make a difference in people’s lives.
Unfortunately many of those programs are short lived due to changes in
funding or change of leadership. In one
community that I was working in they had an incredible program that was
designed, funded and worked through a community action organization. It included personal mentorship and lessons
on many basic life skills courses that were flexible enough to help all of
their clients succeed. I saw firsthand
the success of those who completed the six month program. They were either self reliant or in the worst
case scenarios they were well on their way.
Most had started out as shelter hoppers but ended up moving into a place
where they were paying at least a portion of the rent. One young woman was even in the process of
buying her own house. Yet the program
only lasted one year. Reasons given for
its elimination included a loss of funding (The community action organization
received a majority of its funds from government program.) and also a new
direction being brought to the organization that had changed leadership. Yet this program was succeeding. I have read of many others that showed much
promise for impacting generations of folks living in poverty but when elections
take place or when passions run cold the programs go away.
Only together can we hope to
build sustainable programs that will work.
I see five divisions of folks that if they were able to work together
could make an incredible difference in the lives of people who are experiencing
Since elections happen
routinely in this nation at all levels of government we should be cautious in
depending on their funding of these projects.
Two additional reasons to be cautious of the government’s involvement on
the funding end. First they don’t
produce anything. The only way they get
money is to take it from others. In order for them to offer any money they must
take it from someone who is working.
This seems to be the current trend of our government. “Let us tax the rich and give to the poor,”
is say the modern day Robin Hoods. This
will never be sustainable since in truth most taxes will be collected from the
middle class and will result in pushing them into poverty. When most of us look at our paycheck and
notice the money being taken out and then later drive past a panhandler who is
flying the sign we feel angry with them.
Isn’t this what those deductions are supposed to be preventing. No one should be living in a cardboard box
while they are taking my money.
Secondly, money collected from the government tends to come with
political leanings. In studying the New
Deal programs does it not strike you as strange that nearly 90% of the programs
did not go to those in the most destitute poverty but instead to swing states
that helped FDR get reelected? This will
always be the case when government is responsible for the funding. So what role does the government play in the
First they need to cut all welfare
programs slowly over the next several years.
They must be careful not to do it all at once but must start with a
deliberate plan to eradicate government support. Dropping the support too quickly could lead
to riots and wide spread panic. We must
focus on a plan to slowly drop the aid over the next five years across the
nation. As long as the hand out system
lives we will have poverty infecting our nation.
Money could better be used as a portion of
programs similar to the WPA and the CCC from the Great Depression era. This would enable us to get trained workers
for minimum cost and also get key infrastructure built across the nation. With a little creativity we can have cleaner
parks, streets and people welcoming us into government buildings and
hospitals. The possibilities are
Second they need to get out and focus on incentives
to encourage businesses to hire more people.
The role of government is really more one of infrastructure. Build the roads, utility systems and other
pieces so that business can thrive.
Government should drop things like the minimum wage and over regulation
that makes things difficult. I remember
having a conversation with a business owner who had to pay an employee just to
manage the paperwork that was connected to his business. In this modern era paperwork should be
minimal but it only seems to increase.
One government based program that once worked with required the exact
same form filled out for each program.
This form was over 20 pages long.
By the way because they were going through a digital transition I also
had to fill out the paperwork online. It
was time consuming and a waste.
Third government should look at all
laws. There are actually programs and
systems that they must overhaul like court systems, department of corrections
and other agencies that must be examined and changed. Some of these programs actually create
poverty. It is critical that every local
government take a look at laws that might be causing some to be in
poverty. In my own community there are
laws that limit the number of people living in an apartment. While for safety reasons this makes some
sense, could we be keeping the extended family from being of service to each
other? Could local laws be established
to better protect businesses that donate already prepared foods to local
shelters and free public meal locations?
There are likely laws in your community that may be contributing to
poverty and homelessness.
Many communities are allowing tent cities
and many advocates fight for the rights of people to live on sidewalks and
such. These ideas are short sighted and
actually enable men and women to continue to make poverty creating
choices. Government could step back into
an ancient idea of work houses for those who find themselves homeless. Minimum accommodations, safety focused,
training focused and as much inspiration to move folks forward as possible would
define the workhouses. The goal would be
getting folks to work. For those that
actually have disabilities there would be a special place for them where they
can receive the medical care they need.
Most men and women have disabilities that might make some jobs nearly
impossible but most can contribute regularly.
At a federal and state level, things like
raising the minimum wage, more money for housing and other ideas all sound like
a solution to poverty. That is until you
get up close and check into what these men and women actually need. I will recommend that instead of simply signing
off on legislation that our government officials might need to take a closer
look at these bills. Granted, there are
hundreds of issues at stake at all levels of government. For this work I will only address these
As a student of poverty and leadership I
have spent much time considering these topics.
For the person who is serious about wanting to really help the poor I
challenge you to study the topic and spend time thinking through all of the
possible ways to help. That is how we,
“go to him.” We study the culture of
poverty and we look for ways to help.
But if you don’t take time to examine the culture and the true situation
you could actually be hurting the people you claim to love.
Raising the minimum wage is proposed by
many as a solution for poverty. On the
surface this makes sense. Pay the people
more and they won’t be poor. Simple
right? There is much logic of this on
the surface of this idea. However,
without getting too complicated consider this.
When you raise the wages of the employees the employer really has two
options. They must hire fewer people or
charge more for the products or services they offer. The raises will not simply go to the new
comers and those who are currently being paid less than the most recent minimum
wage but ultimately to all employees.
The reason for that is simple. You
must pay the experienced and more educated staff members more or they will leave. It is unfair to pay good workers the same as
those who are slackers.
If the company hires fewer people; then
there are more unemployed and more poor people.
If a community has fewer jobs the hope for employment can be
devastating. Look at small towns that
once supported mines that are closed up or the American textile industry
towns. These towns are ghost towns and
However, the company may choose the second
option and raise the price of items. Ask
yourself, “Where do the poor shop?” They
shop and receive services from companies that have a majority of their staff
being paid minimum wage. That will
automatically raise the cost of living for the working poor as well as the
Regardless of which way the company goes we will all be negatively impacted. Wouldn’t it be better to get rid of the minimum wage and let our community to start voting with our dollars? A store might choose to pay more and charge more. The quality of the service would be higher. Since they are paying premium they are more likely to have premium staff. Another store might pay less and charge less. Some who are poor might choose to shop there simply because of price but the service might stink.
Move Away from Welfare Style Programs
We need to be careful about
moving too quickly. Every few years well
meaning social workers warn their clients about changes coming that may end
housing. They prepare these men and
women for the worst. Then suddenly
through some miracle of legislative action the funding is saved and again folks
do not need to go look for a job. They
all breathe a sigh of relief. This has
happened enough that most believe that if the government needs money to keep
these programs in place that they will simply go out and print some more. Money is in unlimited supply. My point is that people will not simply go to
work because we announce that in five years there will be no more funding to
the program. There needs to be a ten
year plan that every year a certain number of people are moved from dependent
to independent lifestyles. Funding can
be switched to pay for job training instead of housing. Those that choose not to participate can go
into very restrictive public housing that will give a roof over the head but
little freedom. Freedom comes at a cost.
While this topic alone could
make up a whole book. (Maybe someday I
will have the time to write that one.)
We must take a look at our current backlogged court system. There has got to be a better way. Some estimates have recidivism rates as high
as 90%. There has got to be a better
way. Consider this idea. What if there was a way to know who was
serious about life change? I have no
idea what that looks like. But for the
sake of an interesting concept let us say that we have a way to know who is
playing and who really wants a new life.
Then what we could have is a court system that simply determines guilt
or innocence. No longer would we accept
loop holes. Loop holes in the system are
dangerous for all of us. The judges
would then determine guilt or innocence and send them to the local prison if
they are guilty. The local prison would
determine how long they need to stay.
Contrast that with our system today.
A person is found guilty and then sent to jail for a set amount of
time. There is no way to know if that
person will change and if that amount of time is correct. So when they are released we have to label
them as felons and they find it difficult to get a job. Under this new system we would somehow know
that they are choosing a new life. When
they are released (if they are ever released) they are seen as ordinary
citizens. Of course if our system failed
and they do go back to crime we would have learned something about this
Another reform idea whose
time has come is community court. Here
we see folks with donut crimes stand before a judge. In a neighboring room are social workers and
others who offer services of all types.
The judge would then sentence them to visit what ever agency would best
keep them from committing those crimes.
If they go get those services they would no longer be in the
system. If they choose not to get the
help that they say they need, they would then be sentenced to the prison system
that will keep them until they have chosen a new life.
Finally, our local
governments must look at local laws that keep folks in poverty. I remember moving to Oklahoma and we could
not find a three bedroom place to rent while we looked around for a home to
buy. There were plenty of two bedrooms
but because we had three kids the law prohibited anyone from renting to us. Here we were fully employed people, good
citizens who were to be homeless because of a local law. We did find a place before we had to move to
the streets, but the point is the law can sometimes create a poverty situation.
In order to eliminate
poverty from any community we must bring business to the table. They are the ones with the money and more
importantly the jobs. Typically that
know what they need in their employees.
When Government gets out of the way and allows business to focus on
creating jobs incredible things begin to happen. In almost every neighborhood there are
businesses. What would it look like if they were able to find employees
(quality employees) that lived in the same neighborhood? How incredible would that be? Transportation issues that often plaque those
in poverty could be solved. What if
local businesses were able to offer training on basic resumes, interviewing and
dressing for success? Couldn’t that make
a difference? Think of the pool of
possible future staff you could create if you were training them when you don’t
have a current need.
Business also must be aware of the
environment they create. Do your
customers create trouble for those living around your business? What can you do to make that better? Is your business a factory that is literally
making people sick? Wouldn’t it be
better to work to find solutions for that?
If your business does not make your community better than you should
consider moving to a community where you can make it better, or get out of
Business can also partner with non-profits
with special events that can help fund the programs that are going to be
helping people get out of poverty.
Things like buy five items and we will give five dollars to the Gospel
Rescue Mission, can increase your business and also help out those in poverty
at the same time.
The church was the original
social service agency. Early church
history has the church saving babies left out to die, caring for the sick and
feeding the poor widows and orphans. I
wonder what the impact could be if the church returned to those original
tasks? Beyond that I also believe that
the church can be the epicenter for neighborhood time banks. (see the section
on that in chapter 9) Churches should
start by caring for the widows and orphans as mandated in the Scriptures in
their own church first. But when they
are all cared for reach out to help others.
If the local church lacks the skills they should invite local rescue
missions or other agencies to come and provide that training. Together we can do more.
Social Service Agencies
Service Agencies have if rough. They
have to do the impossible, document everything and help people in ways that
they may not actually need because that is where the funding requires it. Hopefully, we can convince funders where the
real help is needed and encourage them to find ways to decrease the amount of
paperwork required. But beyond that,
social service agencies must stop competing with one another. Just recently I had two different organizations
come and request partnership on very similar projects. They were so similar in fact that they were
hoping to acquire the same piece of property for the projects. When I brought up the competing project they
insulted the founders and changed the subject.
Almost every week, I have people come to my office with some great idea
on how to help those in poverty but they refuse to do so under an umbrella of
another organization. It is as if
everyone wants to be the lone ranger.
Let me say this again in case you have missed it. Poverty solving is important. Poverty solving can be done. Poverty solving cannot be done by any single agency,
organization or person. We can do this
1) What would it take to get
business, government, social service agencies, the community and churches to
develop the sense of trust that will enable to set aside personal agendas and
take on this focus of ending poverty in their community?
2) Who in your community has
the influence to bring together these disparate groups of people?
3) Working with a group of
representatives from all of the above mentioned divisions and develop a ten
year plan with markers to be reached each year.
The Exodus gives us another pattern that works for those in poverty
For over 400 years the descendants of
Jacob and his twelve sons were living lives in slavery. It most likely started subtly. They say that if you want to boil a frog that
you must put it in cold water and slowly heat it up. It is likely that these Hebrew men and women
were living in slavery long before they realized what had happened. Eventually the realization set in and they cried
out to God for freedom. Freedom is the
call of all men and women who are enslaved.
The Bible tells us that God heard their cry and set in motion a plan to
set them free.
Starting in the late 1800s and early 1900s
and most prominently during the Great Depression and then most disruptively
with President Johnson’s war on poverty, imaginative programs came on the scene
that were designed to end the suffering caused by poverty. Maybe that was what was in the hearts of some
of the lawmakers and social workers of that era. Others had in mind simply stopping the riots
that had begun to happen between the two world wars. There are even some that could be said were
deliberately trying to bring socialism or communism into our nation. Regardless of the hearts of those that
introduced these programs we continue to pay a price for their choices today. One of those is the eradication of the family.
Statistics show for example that the African American family (husband, wife and children) survived the era of American slavery. Where possible they stayed together and in most cases when slavery ended they searched for each other with the hope of keeping the family together. Statistics also show that the African American family survived pretty well the era of Jim Crow laws that were prevalent in the south but had their own variations in the north. These laws made life difficult and painful for the family and they drew together. But after the war on poverty campaign took place the family disintegrated in record numbers. Similar stories and statistics can be found on families of all races being negatively impacted by these new “welfare” laws. How did these programs encourage the dissolving of the family? Essentially this issue like much surrounding poverty is too complex and we could get bogged down in it. But the essence is that no longer was it required that anybody work. Without the need for workers there was no need for the family to stay together and offer support. You see that is what makes a family work effectively. One or two go out into the labor force. Others stay at home and care for the children, maintaining the home base so that the workers have a safe and encouraging place to return to after a day of labor. All are essential for making it come together. We will explore the family more, later in this book, however for now it is enough to recognize that the family collapse started with these laws that were passed with the intention of helping those in poverty.
Without the family to support and help there needed to be a safety net, Uncle Sam came running to the rescue. But in order for this safety net to work there needed to be thick manuals written and too many rules to grasp and keep people confused and trapped in poverty. Many have been told that if they look for a job they may lose the government assistance. In some cases this may be true. But really Uncle Sam has set a trap to capture those who are willing to hold onto the little bit they are handed out rather than work with the potential to excel.
Every time there is a change of leadership
in the government the administration of these welfare programs also
changes. Sometimes folks are thrown out
on the streets and they come to our shelters.
Other times the mere threat brings them online. History shows clearly that Franklin D
Roosevelt used these programs to encourage folks to vote for him or for others
of his political party. While not as
blatant in most cases it still happens today.
Men and women are trapped into thinking that they need the government to
help them survive. If they vote for one
party or the other they may lose their funding.
How are they to doubt that as a fact? Everyone they know and hang out with is in
the same boat. Anxiously they all await
the coming of the monthly check and dread those times when they must go to the
government office to renew or make corrections to their current status. A poverty mindset overwhelms them and the
cycle continues. While many look up to
those who find a way out of poverty, most will assume it can never happen for
them. They feel trapped so they continue
in their slavery to the government just like all of their family and friends.
This is likely how the slaves in Egypt
felt. They had been slaves for over 400
years and they knew no other life. They
had hopes and dreams and every once in awhile a slave might become an overseer
and was doing better than the rest, but they were still living without freedom.
God though was preparing to set His people
free. He had a plan to send a fellow
Hebrew who was eighty years old to the Pharaoh to get the slaves released. Pharaoh though liked having the slaves and
resisted all efforts to let them go.
Today, Pharaoh has been replaced with a democratic
government that will use those in poverty as a bargaining chip in elections and
as a tool to accuse and blame the opposition.
Many government programs like minimum wage and other labor and welfare
laws actually work to create more slaves.
The hunger for the blood, sweat and tears of the oppressed is unending
Recently I was in a meeting where it was
shared by an elected official that one department was opposed to make it easy
for citizens to pay their bills because if it was too easy than they would not
be able to charge fees or fines for paying late because of the revenue they
would lose. This not only deeply impacts
those in poverty but it also hurts all of us.
Today we come like Moses and ask, demand
and plead that the slaves be set free. However,
unlike those times we strive to do this in a way that is slowly and well
thought out. Releasing all of the slaves
at once would only bring riots and untold suffering.
This release must come
gradually and deliberately. Those on the
front lines will be tempted to make exceptions; they must not be allowed to
waiver if we are to eventually get everyone free. A quality assessment and a plan to move folks
from Egypt to the Promised Land needs to be developed for everyone. There can be no excuses for we long for
everyone to be made free.
this will not be done without push back, name calling and underhanded manipulation by those in power.
There is nothing more
difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its
success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.
For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only
lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this
lukewarmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries … and partly from
the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they
have had actual experience of it.
— Niccolo Machiavelli
must not lump all of these men and women together into one pool. Each individual family is starting at a
different place in their journey. Again
to compare it to the Exodus from Egypt some were packed and ready to go. Others I am sure had taken a “Wait and See, attitude” so were not quite
ready when the call came. Take some time
to assess where they are physically, mentally, spiritually and socially. The
assessment will help us determine how we can move them toward the Promised
Land. There is no point in this
assessment where we are determining that they cannot move to the Promised Land,
remember no one is to be left behind.
Where is their current health?
What choices can we help them make to get healthy? If a food bank knowingly gives cake and
sweets to a diabetic should they be held liable for essentially killing that
person? The assessment will tell us how
to help folks get started. We want to
put them on the journey in a beneficial way.
What addictions do they have? Do
they smoke, drink and live a reckless life? We need to find out where they are and train
them up to make better choices.
of what our assessment says it is critical that we not write them off as not
being capable of being a contributing member of society. Everyone has value and everyone can make a
positive impact. Consider what this
person can give to the greater good.
We must educate these men and women on the value of work. The media needs to portray work as a positive
force in our nation instead of a negative one that is so often shown. Carefully we must work through emotional
issues with a plan toward removing medication and replace it with physical exercise
and wholesome counseling. As part of
this we need to discover where there reading level is at and their education
level. Also assess what skills and
knowledge these men and women have available.
Most of these men and women are highly intelligent and if we take the
time to believe in them and encourage them, we just might discover that they
have something to offer to our society if they are just steered in the right
too, it may be tempting to write people off if they seem incapable of adjusting
and playing well with society. We must
not do that. Everyone has value and is
capable of being a contributing member of society.
We all have a spiritual component to ourselves. Who or what are they worshipping? Are they worshiping something temporary or
more long term? This is where the
churches have their most powerful elements.
How can we feed the spiritual nature as much life as possible? Today we talk of zombies and death like they
are fun events. We are feeding our
families and loved ones death regularly.
we talk to folks we need to recognize that they are spiritual beings and we
need to either nurture that ourselves or find someone else that can do that for
them. Love requires that we speak truth
in love and help them to find their greatest value that has been embedded in
them from God. These are valuable men
and women and we must not write them off, even if they are resistant to this
Is this person respectful to others?
Do they know basic manners? Do
they dress and present themselves as good members of our community? Some will color their hair blue and wonder
why the bank won’t hire them. They are
going out of their way to be non-hirable.
We must educate folks to look prepared to work and give to our
there is a thin line between mental illness and the choice to pick up
anti-social behavior. All are valuable
and love requires helping those that are legitimately mentally ill and calling
out those that are just playing games.
This is difficult and really needs to be done by a panel of professional
therapists who have no personal benefit from their assessments.
Now here some will begin to argue. What if they don’t want to change? If they do not want freedom then they will
not get freedom. In the old days they
had a thing called debtors prison.
Children should be taken from those that refuse to do whatever it takes
to discover freedom. Adults should be
put into a secure place where they have few privileges. These would be non-smoking, no drug use
facilities where there would also be no television. These poor houses need to be safe, but not
inviting. Men and women that change
their mind and determine that they want freedom would be given the option to be
educated and moved along. This all
sounds harsh, but why should society pay for them to live life on their own
terms. Freedom comes with a price.
Early on in the journey the Hebrew people were
brought to Mount Sinai where they heard the Ten Commandments. For the purposes of this book I will focus
only on the final six that focused on values that are represented in one form
or another in nearly every culture of the world. These six values must be taught to everyone
and reinforced positively and negatively.
We must not only teach them but we must become a community that does not
tolerate violating these values.
Honor your father and mother: Throughout most of history the family unit
was the safety net. It was the family
that was able and willing to help when family had downturns or were caught up
in addiction. It was the family that
provided care for the children and the elderly.
Grandfathers passed on values to their grandkids and spent time with
them while father worked the fields or the factory to pay the bills. The whole family did their part. This whole system depends on the mother and
father working together to make the house into a home. Everyone must do their share and work
You shall not murder: We live in a society that routinely glorifies
murder either in abortion clinics or in movies.
This disrespect for life results in young men who attack police officers
and mass shootings throughout the nation.
People must be taught to value life.
This would include those who are being executed by our justice system. We cannot expect a nation to be free of
poverty that so glorifies death.
You shall not commit adultery: We must teach that sex is reserved for men
and women who are legally married to each other, who are committed to each
other and to the family that they might choose to create. In the best of circumstances the family has
always been the best safety net ever created.
You shall not steal: There was a garden that I used to go to with
my family that had a poster up that listed all of the things that you could not
do to the plants. You cannot touch,
poke, caress, and rub, etc the plants.
They had to list all of the ways that you could not molest the
plants. Stealing is much like that, we
have made it so complicated. This is the
point, if it is not yours don’t touch it, take it, borrow it (without expressed
permission), move it or any other way that would entail stealing.
You shall not lie: Again this one is fairly simple. Tell the truth. I wish that this could be said of our media
that consistently bends the truth in order to get exciting news stories. Encourage the press, advertisers and others
to simply tell the truth and let us decide what to do with it.
You shall not covet: This one is tough to legislate. What is the difference between healthy
ambition and greed? It is often hard to
tell. This is where we must train folks
to be content with what they have, but if they want more they are free to
desire and strive in the midst of that contentment.
Now the question comes up and really must
be discussed. If we are not going to
tolerate violation of these commandments, what are we going to do when they are
Typically, government and society will lean
toward punishment to correct behavior.
We must be cautious. Our efforts
must go toward redeeming people.
Remember, even if they are bitter, angry and viscous law breakers they
have value. People are motivated to
change by either avoiding pain or seeking pleasure. What can we do to educate these men and
women? How can we lead them to play well
with others? Of course these lessons are
easier taught to children and then raise them with those lessons firmly
established rather than try to teach those that are older these lessons. Start early and do not give up on
Currently as you look out your front door
you do not need those neighbors for your survival like you did in times
past. At one time we needed to work
together because a neighboring village might attack or we might need to go on a
hunt together in order to get enough food.
There is no crisis so we have no need to bond, no need to work
together. No longer are our
neighborhoods built like a tribe with respect and love as the cornerstone. This may be why gangs have become the
guardians of the neighborhoods. The gang
creates a crisis and it draws the gang closer together as they defend one
another. I don’t wish for a crisis, but
what if we were able to create a false crisis.
This false crisis could pull us together, force us to look at each other
and protect each other. The truth is
that we really do need each other like our ancestors needed their tribes.
Notice in the Exodus story while there is
the uniting factors of being Hebrews; they also are allowed to be tribes,
families within tribes and individuals.
Can we create that feeling without the crisis of war or famine? I hope so and we will discuss how this might
happen later in this book.
Liberty means that we often have to allow
folks to choose their own lifestyles and sometimes this means making unhealthy
choices like smoking, drug use and gluttony.
How then do we work together as a community in this area? Again challenges await us. When other people choose not to take care of
themselves then insurance prices go up and even those who eat right, exercise
and avoid risky behaviors must pay for the choices of others. This does not seem fair. We should look to education to help us with
lifestyle choices and encourage one another in those directions. It could be that you are free to choose
unhealthy lifestyles but then your insurance is higher. Better yet there are discounts for certain
health factors being put into play so that we all are encouraged toward greater
Health too is too complicated a topic to be
faithfully covered in this book. But let
me say that all of the government based programs are based on insurance not
health care. Insurance is typically only
good when you are sick. Our goals need
to be wrapped around preserving health and building an incentive based program
that keeps people healthy.
Everyone can work! I know that many disagree with me on this
point. With our modern technology
everyone who desires to work has the ability.
Too many people choose to play the victim and receive money from
government. This again will lead us to
difficult conversations. We must reward
In America we love freedom! What will we do with it? I despise the socialist system that is
espoused by so many. We must encourage
creativity and allow folks to solve their own problems. Society can offer education and opportunity. You will get more freedom through your own
efforts than by waiting on some government agency to come and solve your
What we can do is create a ladder of how to
move out of poverty and show everyone in poverty where it is at, how to climb
that ladder and then step away. If you
want to be free it is up to you.
It is only through working
together, everyone doing their part that we can hope to overcome the challenge
to eradicate poverty from our communities.
The Hebrews wandering the desert needed to learn how to fight their
enemies together or they would have been destroyed piece by piece. What if each tribe as it wandered the desert
not only had to scrape by on manna and water from rocks but also had to defend
itself from other tribes? How long could
this new nation have survived?
Eventually, after entering the promised
land this very division takes place and while some strong kings were able to
bring them all together for short seasons, the nation never becomes a
sustainable powerhouse that it could have been. In America we take great pride
in a being a world superpower able to cause or prevent wars seemingly at our
own whim. Yet we are a divided
people. We are divided by age, race,
gender, and politics among many others.
How long can we hope to survive as a nation if we cannot figure out how
to work together and overcome our differences?
The solutions will take more talk than just some words typed in a rescue
shelter on a nearly outdated laptop computer.
Solutions will require conversations and openness and a willingness to disagree and still get
along. Can we live up to our name and
again become the UNITED States?
Generations have been divided since Cain
left Adam. Those with experience in life
want desperately to prevent the next generation from making the same mistakes
they made. The young want to have fun,
they want to explore and they want to experience life. New technologies that are promising and
fantastic to the young are often overwhelming to our elders. Some of our elders are stuck in the ways they
were thinking when they were young. The
young are often willing to discard all of their roots and destroy their
foundations. Let us reason together as
adults. Even as we age we can still
learn and grow. New ideas should be
investigated and explored until the day we take our last breath.
Of course as the writer of Ecclesiastes
says, “There is nothing new under the sun.”
I am sure that the first person to use a metal knife was a young person
while an elder looked on in horror. New
technologies come with dangers and we should look to our elders to examine what
those dangers might be without becoming frightened. Together we can maybe save lives. That young person likely cut themselves and
the elder was able to help them by patching them up. That elder was likely the person who came up
with a sheath and wisdom like not running with scissors. We can benefit from each other. Society was better off with metal tools but
the wisdom of the elders enabled them to do more with those tools. What if in all things we sat and talked about
the impact and the hope of new ideas and actually listened to each other? We could accelerate progress in a sustainable
and safe way.
I learned as a child that America was the great melting pot. We have invited people from around the world to come and become a part of this great experiment. As a result we have benefited greatly and have become a superpower. It was the assorted ideas and dreams from diverse cultures and languages that enabled us to come with new technologies and new ideas. Yet today we seem to be each other’s throats. The church is divided every Sunday. The community lives in constant tension waiting to hear the details of the latest shooting. Protesters and looters alike are waiting their opportunities. Too often the form of protest calls attention to the protest and not to the problem. We do have a problem. But like all problems this will not be solved without talk and action.
Fredrick Douglas while an escaped slave living in the north felt compelled to write a book highlighting what life was like for a slave. This book “Escape from Slavery” was a critical tool toward the abolition of slavery in America. But after the book was published many of his friends became concerned that his former master would come looking for him. They feared for his safety and booked a passage out of America to England for a season. Even though they had paid a first class fare for Fredrick, he was assigned to sit on the deck throughout the voyage. He was black and as such did not deserve to have a cabin regardless of what fare he paid was the American mindset in that season.
Maybe that is why Fredrick Douglas was so amazed when he got to England and was allowed to eat in the dining room of nice restaurants and he was allowed to ride first class on any train that he had paid first class fare for. It was like race simply did not matter to the everyday person. During this visit he met with the last remaining member of the Clapham society who had worked to end slavery in the British Empire. Fredrick’s experiences were taking place less than thirty years after the end of slavery. I am sure this gave him hope that America too would become such a place once slavery came to an end. However, we are over 150 years without slavery and yet many of our fellow citizens are treated poorly simply because of the color of their skin. I am curious when we will live up to the dream of Martin Luther King that men and women would be judged by their character more than by their skin color? The problem is not only with Caucasians.
A study in Chicago sent four basically
equal men and women out to auto dealerships.
There were no differences of age, dress or education. Literally the only difference was their
race. What I find most interesting is
that it did not matter what race the salesman represented he or she would offer
the best deal to the white male and the worst deal to the black male.
We have a problem and we need to talk
honestly. I suggest though that we begin
to refer to the American problem as white preference not white privilege.
We have a problem and we need to talk honestly. While I believe that Martin Luther King would have gotten there, Nelson Mandela is our example forward. He led a nation to reconcile and pull together beyond race and tribe.
We have a problem and we need to talk
honestly. While there are cultural and
worship style differences the church should not be so divided. We must find a way to pray and worship
Really without the
differences between the sexes none of us could be here today. We need what each gender offers. In truth the differences should be what
should bring us together.
Having a good mix of
political extremists from both of the major parties as Facebook friends, it is
very interesting to hear their response to the latest hot political
situation. It seems that no matter what
the situation they are able to respond in the most exact opposite way. President Bill Clinton said in his
autobiography that he was not as good as his supporters made him out to be and
he is not as bad as his detractors reported that he was. I would hold that to be true. Instead of simply siding with one party or
the other maybe we should look for the best solutions and go with those
ideas. Maybe we should learn to talk
with one another and look at bigger pictures than simply choosing A or B.
There are many different things that can
separate us as Americans and as citizens of the world. Overall our best plan has got to be to move
us to become a nation where men and women will not be judged by the color of
their skin (or body shape, gender, age, etc) but by the content of their
Who needs to be at the table
in your community to really take a stand against poverty?
What is the central message
of a community that is really dedicated to helping people get out of poverty?
What are some possible
solutions for those who would rather sit around and receive handouts?
What would it look like to
have dinner with someone of a different race, culture or economic class?
When I was a child my family
used to play a game called Life. It was
great fun and was family time well spent.
However, as I have grown older I have learned to despise the message of
that game. The underlying message is
that the purpose of life is to have the most money. In the game that is who the winners are. That is not a message that is good for
society and definitely not for my descendants.
Instead let us develop the game of life to see how real life actually
How do you define the
purpose of life? How do you communicate
that to others?
At some point in every life there are
difficult moments. Those moments might
look like losing a job or a spouse. It
might look like an injury or a rejection.
Difficult moments come to all of mankind regardless of race,
nationality, religion or any other man made divisional label that we place on
people. People of wealth and people of
poverty all face difficult times.
Disappointment comes to all people, dreams
that seemed to be on verge of coming true die an untimely death. Many days I work on a project and I wonder,
“Why does this have to be so difficult?”
You are going to have good days and bad days. None of these will define your purpose.
Take a moment and think
about what you would do if life started to unwind. Who would you turn to? What are your likely feelings? What is your next move?
It is much easier to think through an
emergency plan when you are not in the midst of an emergency situation. Take some time to brainstorm some thoughts
and ideas on disasters that might take place in your life. I realize that this is an uncomfortable
exercise but should anything happen you will thank me later. Additional note: Don’t strive to make these things self
fulfilling prophesies. Our goal is to
develop plans and structures to help you should an emergency arise. I also recommend writing out this emergency
plan since if it should arise you won’t be thinking clearly. Another advantage to writing it out is that
you can quit thinking about it.
negative road: Imagine
the worst has happened. You have lost
your job; you have an injury or an illness that causes you great anxiety. These could be minor or more serious
situations like what happened with Job in the Old Testament. Regardless when these things take place we
have a choice of what we do with it.
Some choose anger, bitterness and negativity. When this happens things in their lives will
move to the negative side.
“It’s not my fault,” is a common refrain
coming from the negative side of life.
They are constantly looking for a scapegoat. In severe cases this is how hate groups get
their power. Someone else must be at
fault so it must be them. The “them”
changes depending on your history or who you are spending time with. But the theme continues to be, “It’s not my
self pity becomes the norm in a person’s life they will often times find
unemployment or at the minimum will stay in low wage jobs. They develop a self image that blocks them
from success. Unless they make some new
choices the anger will begin to create difficulty in relationships. Families can often break apart under the
strain of poverty.
Violence often becomes the norm whether it
is acted out in domestic abuse situations or just experienced as a pleasure in
the media. The heart is slipping. Often the violence will start against
property and may even stretch out to animal abuse. Violence gives a sense of control and this
often leads to abuse.
Abuse is all about control. Typically we only think of domestic violence
but really there are dozens of ways to control a person and violence is only
one. Control is what the abuser is
after. The negative road never hurts
only one person. Misery loves company so
they will pull down as many people as they can.
Rarely will the abuser pick on someone that is in a position to fight
As the heart continues its
negative direction, the poverty and fear begin to take over and crime begins to
make sense. With this mindset there is a
justification. The store makes millions, what does it matter if I steal a
little bit. Many will stay in that
mindset for awhile. Most have not been
trained in crime. What they do know they
have learned from television and movies.
But the thoughts are a seed and unless something happens soon crime will
become an option.
Addiction is another powerful seed that is
planted firmly in those that are living on the negative side of life. During the Great Depression many went to the
cinema to escape the dreary real life existence. But since media is already all around us,
movies no longer create the same degree of escape that they once did. So the more impactful escape can be found in
drugs, alcohol or pornography (among other addictions).
Addiction is not only found in the culture
of poverty but it is there that it has its most debilitating effects. Unlike those with a strong support network,
getting free from the addiction is difficult.
Without money for lawyers or high quality treatment getting free of the
addiction is nearly impossible.
Combine these addictions
with the seeds of a willingness to commit crimes and prison is not a far
Life feels as if it is over. While in prison, there is time to rethink
life. Again a choice can be made
here. The choice for bitterness, anger,
blame and self pity can take the person deeper into poverty. But they could also choose life.
positive road: When
that disability takes place a person can choose hope, love and family. They can reach out for faith and dream of a
better life. If you look hard enough it
is easy to find the treasure in the difficult times. Those that grab onto that small treasure will
suddenly discover that their family becomes a great source of strength. For those who had been on the negative side they
can see their family restored.
A family that works together and lives selflessly can do wonders. The encouragement and love that comes from that family becomes a solid base to work off of for the rest of their lives. The family is the original safety net and has prevented many from falling to the bottom. True love within the family can keep one from addiction and crime. Families that learn how to speak the truth in love can be a powerful force in our world. The seed planted there become a positive attitude that becomes reflected in the work that is being done. With a good work attitude work opportunities prosper and a mindset of constant and never ending improvement can take over. With a taste of improvement in all areas of life success begins to take hold. Alongside of this success comes a desire to grow your faith and a connection to something greater than oneself.
Guard your thoughts and see
if you can discover any negativity or self pity that is holding you back. If you are choosing to help people in poverty
help them to do a u turn toward a life of possibilities and hope. That is how you win at the game of life.
Write out the story of your
life within the context of the game of life format? What were the best roads traveled?
Describe the worst roads
traveled and lessons learned.
How can you share these life
lessons with those in poverty in a way that they will hear you?
Let us take a look at some
different story lines and consider what we might think if the story had been
told just a little different.
Scenario 1: The man beat up had actually been one of the
thieves until recently: The Samaritan
comes upon the man and remembers seeing him on television as a wanted man for
robbery on this very road. As in the
original story the priest and the Levite are long gone. Now the Samaritan is alone with this wanted
man who is lying on the road, nearly dead.
What would Jesus have us do in that situation?
Some would say right here and now that the
man has made his choice and his lifestyle alone led him to this stage. Even men and women in the church would
suggest that it would be the justice of God to leave the man to die there in
the streets. They might say something
along the lines of, “He made his bed, let him sleep in it.” I am confident that others would come up with
Scriptures to back up such a view.
However, the compassion of God (His Character) is unbelievable. While the Scriptures do talk of turning a
sinner over and that some have become too calloused to ever be redeemed, we in
the flesh have no way of knowing if that has happened to this man or not. Paul was at least an accessory to one murder
that we know about. Would we write him
off? Jesus invited the thief on the
cross to join Him in Heaven. Moses
committed murder, we don’t have names for all of the witches and homosexuals
that turned from their sin to follow after Christ. God can use anyone and we are not to be the
ones to write them off. As a caution I
do say that if this man is a known murderer than it might be a good idea to use
wisdom in your handling of him. As men
and women of God it is critical that we learn to listen to the Holy
Spirit. He might direct us to patch him
up and take him to the inn. The Holy
Spirit might direct you to call in the authorities. Just maybe the Holy Spirit would have you
take him to another place where experts can work alongside of others to serve
him and lead him to a place of being restored to community. If he returns to a lifestyle of murder,
thievery or other crimes allow the authorities to deal with him. Our role is to care for him and show him a
better way regardless of his past.
Scenario 2: The man is healed but the Samaritan finds him
again in the same position the next time he is on that road.
Many months later as the
Samaritan moves along down the road he was reflecting and remembered that the
last time he had been here the relationship that he had started with that poor
man that had been beaten up. The
Samaritan began to wonder whatever happened to the man when he looked up and
saw a body and could hear some faint cries of pain. Investigating he discovered that it was the
same man. What would Jesus have us do in
Maybe this same scene
happens dozens of times. Each and every
time the Samaritan continues to help the man.
Should there be a limit to his compassion? Is the Samaritan only enabling
the man to live foolishly by continuing to help him out? Again many could make the argument that the
foolish man no longer deserves compassion.
I would agree. None of us really
deserves for strangers or others to show us compassion. The problem is that this man continues to
waste resources and does not seem to be learning his lesson. Consider that the man has not learned his
lesson. Has the Samaritan tried a
different program of healing? Maybe a different
inn could teach him some martial arts so that next time maybe he could defend
himself. Possibly the program could
teach him a different route to take to Jericho.
We have many options that we must try to help this man. We are blessed with a certain level of
creativity. Consider options and keep
trying new things. Eventually the
Samaritan won’t be there to rescue him and the problem will be solved in a
horrendous way. Letting the man know and
understand that so far he has been most fortunate would be of benefit.
One other thing that might help, is teaching
the man the art of journaling. Having
seen this multiple times in many and diverse situations most folks coming out
of a traumatic situation will vow not to go back to those situations. This often happens with women coming out of
domestic abuse situations or with those coming down from an addiction. The pain is great and they will resolve never
to allow themselves to get into that situation again. Unfortunately the pain heals and they forget
all about their vow and return to the cause of their pain. Friends and others try to call warn them and
desire to help them but they will no longer listen. By journaling they can tell themselves not to
be foolish. Maybe they will listen to
themselves when the pull of going back down that dangerous road becomes too
Scenario 3: Every day someone is beat up alongside that
Many weeks after the Samaritan has returned
home he picks up a newspaper and notices a story about another man beat up
alongside that road. This one had nobody
there to rescue him so he died. The
Samaritan is heartbroken. Over the next
several days he notices it again and again.
Nearly every day someone is being robbed and left for dead on that same
portion of road. Never in his life has
the Samaritan been overly involved in politics and really would rather not be
involved but he can’t help himself. He
must do something. What would Jesus have
him do in this situation?
Now this one is much more complex. This is an issue for society to address. Today that person beat up and robbed was a
stranger but if we remain silent eventually that person could be a family
member, friend or even ourselves. We
must take action before anybody else gets hurt.
that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
Working with government will take time; we
should start any process to increase police or other protection forces. We will need to consider increases in taxes
or repositioning law enforcement. It
will take time to determine the most cost efficient and effective course of
However, we must take action now. Churches could come up with a force to simply
walk the road with folks during peak crime hours. Leadership in local organizations could begin
patching roads and making the whole stretch more easily used. Maybe an outreach to the criminals that
consistently work on that stretch of road would be in order.
Now in this scenario it was crime that we
were looking at but oppression and society based injustice is rampant in our
nation. Many reading this may think that
I am overstating things.
I love to watch my boys play
basketball. When the game is over they
will often point out several terrible calls by the officials. The ride home is filled with details of how
the bad calls cost them a shot or even the game. What they failed to notice were the other
calls that also hurt the other team.
Some of them were also bad calls but since they benefited them they did
not notice those calls.
Here is the point that we need to take
home with us. We tend to only notice
unfairness when it strikes us personally.
Take a moment and walk in the shoes of others who are different than
you. I once went to the mall with a
friend of mine who happens to be African American. After a short time of walking through a
department store I noticed that the store security happened to be watching us
more carefully. He was dressed in nice
clothing the only thing that really set us apart was our skin color. Now this did not happen in every store and
did not even happen every time in that store.
But if I had not been with him that day and he would have told me about
that sort of prejudice I might have doubted it.
Our society needs to take time to listen
to one another and not simply write each other off because the world looks
different through our glasses.
They Came for the Jews”By Pastor Niemoller
they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.Then
they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a
they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a
they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.
What are some more scenarios
that might play out?
Are there any people in
poverty that are beyond helping in your community?
What might motivate others
in your community to come out and help?
In order to help the hurting and the wounded
we must be willing to get out of our comfort zones and go to them. Remember that they are hurting and wounded
they will not come to you. In nature we
often see wounded animals isolate themselves and hide. They will not be coming to your church. It is more likely that they will close up
their house, pull the shades tight and will not be heard from. We must get out into the poor neighborhoods
and reach out to them. Because they are
hurting they will not trust you. Do not
be offended. They are only being
I love history and I particularly have been
fascinated with the history of World War II and have read much about the
soldiers, sailors, politicians and so many others impacted by the war. However, I must confess that much of what is
described in pictures, maps and words made little sense to me until I went to
Europe and saw the cities, the battlefields and the homes represented in those
stories. It made much more sense when I
put my own eyes on the places of history.
My understanding grew substantially.
The same is true when we strive to impact poverty. We must go to them and see for ourselves what
is really happening.
I once heard a story of a church that every
year would organize and plan a trip to some remote element of the world to
serve the poor. These trips required
weekly prayer and information meeting, great expense and training. When the months of preparation were complete,
with bags packed the group of short term missionaries would take church vans to
the airport. On the way they would be
careful to avoid, that neighborhood. You
know that one neighborhood that every city has where there is more crime, more
poverty and more need. The church
faithful would take a wide route and make it to the airport so that they could
change the world for Jesus. While on the
trip they would see Jesus in action.
Lives would be changed on the foreign mission field and within the
team. Jesus would be glorified. When they returned they would again avoid
“that neighborhood” as they returned home.
A week or two later they would be giving testimonies of what they
experienced so far away and encouraged others to do the same.
Now I wish to make clear that I have no
issues with short term mission’s trips.
I think that they can be very helpful for encouraging the faithful to
support missionaries who are serving abroad.
But my thoughts are with that “neighborhood” the one that you
avoid. If you believe that a one week
trip can impact lives and change the world for Jesus; how much more could Jesus
use a dedicated man or woman of God who is willing to reach out into the inner
cities of our nation?
When you go there, and it might be a rough
neighborhood or a local homeless shelter, you will learn that the men, women
and children there are people not so
different than you or me. These are men
and women who once had hopes and dreams but had them crushed or delayed. You will meet moms who deeply love their
children and have dreams for them doing better.
They will complain about the cost of milk, the latest sports blunder and
look forward to the next blockbuster film.
Additionally, they live on the edge and as
a result have developed some incredible survival skills. Over the years of working with them I have
become amazed at their ability to get a high tech cell phone, keep food on the
table and clothes on their body with no income to speak of. They will be able to tell you all of the
free things that are out there in the world that can be yours if you just
ask. They are more than willing to tell
you about programs in your community that they like, don’t like or have heard
things about. Very few will hold back on
The ingenuity of those in
poverty is outstanding. On any given day
they can take ordinary objects and turn them into tools. With a phone call they can find someone to
help them through a short crisis. Again
and again they will make calls and be rejected; yet keep going on. There is a fire within them that simply needs
to be kindled.
Many will say that education is the key to
getting these men and women out of poverty.
However, among the poor you will find people with no diploma, high
school diplomas, bachelor degrees and all manner of masters and doctorate
degrees. You would not know this unless
you sat down and got to know them. Those
that hold that education can save them are like an eye doctor who after the
exam simply hands his glasses over to the patient without testing or even
conversation. The odds of those glasses
being the exact right prescription is long; yet these educators are making that
call without taking time to get to know those who are living in poverty. They believe that somehow a diploma will make
a difference. As you get to know those
in poverty you do learn that education is a key, but not in the school and
higher education form. Instead those in
poverty must be educated to know that they are valuable to society when they
contribute. They must be taught a love
of learning and a passion for life.
Education is important and multiple studies
show the earning power that a degree can get people. But if someone feels that they do not have
value then an education is not going to lift them out of poverty. They will not even seek an education. School is full of negative memories of
failures and boredom. Help them find the
passion within them and they will learn and grow and be set free.
Studies continually show the lack of
reading that takes place outside of school.
Why is that? Men and women don’t have
a passion for learning. We live in an
information society. Our world moves
fast and if you don’t take time to learn you will fall behind very quickly. What I often tell people is take time to
discover what your passions are and dive into books on that topic. Take time to watch videos on that topic and
attend seminars. With a little bit of
effort you will quickly become an expert on that topic. I read once that if you read more than five
books on any topic you will know more on that topic than 90% of the world. You can only help those in poverty discover a
passion for learning if you get to know their passions.
All people have strengths and
limitations. For too long we have
allowed people in our society to get away with the excuses that their
limitations create for them. I have met
men and women who have incredible disabilities where they are missing
limbs. Yet these men and women work for
a living. Others have mental
disabilities and though it is unlikely that they will be doctors or lawyers
they can use their strengths to overcome their disabilities. Yet, social workers will often focus on the
weaknesses that will get them the most hand out. There is a common thought that if you focus
on a weakness the weakness grows stronger.
If you focus on the strength the strength will grow stronger. We must help the poor learn what their
strengths are and how to use them to succeed in our world. Again you can only do this if you take time
to get to know these men and women.
Currently in society there is a fascination
with death. Zombies, skulls and other
symbols of death permeate the clothing and decorations of the poor. Where does this fascination come from? There are many culprits. The media for one has developed a blood lust
in movies and television. At any given
moment you are permitted to view a killing, a rape or some other horrendous
scene. For many in poverty television
and movies is the great escape. They
cannot afford to go see theater or listen to symphonies. Television gives them a break from the pain
of reality. A second culprit is abortion
providers. In most major cities you will
find the abortion provider focusing on serving those in poverty. They love to take the lives of these babies
and call it choice. Because these
services are directed to those in poverty they continue to develop a taste for
death that haunts them from the cradle to the grave. All life is special so let us reach out to
these men and women and show them the value in life and what roles they can play
in it. We can only show them the joy of
life by spending time with them.
The point of this section is that we must
go to them. That includes politicians
who want to vote for or against spending plans and are working on bills that
will impact those in poverty. The
politician who votes either way without going to the people they believe they
are impacting should be voted out of office and replaced with someone who is
truly educated on the plight of the poor.
This includes the well meaning social worker and the local church
pastor. Go to the people, learn from
them. The truth is that these men and
women are the real experts on poverty, because they live with it every day.
saw the man (Luke 10:33)
I am sure that you have seen them, the guys
in scruffy clothes with a poorly constructed cardboard sign offering to work
for food. Many times I wonder if they
really would work for a sandwich. It is
easy to judge these folks and assume that they are lazy, drug addicts or con
artists. It is also easy to assume that
they represent the homeless and the poor of America. But with all of that going on in your head,
do you really see them. Can you look
past the judgments and look into their eyes and see the human being that is
standing there? For most of us we look
away, we don’t want to see the hurt.
Maybe it is because we realize that we are all one or two choices away
from being there ourselves. Maybe it is
because we don’t want them to ask us for anything.
We long to be invisible and if invisible not
responsible for the hurting in our community.
But in order to ignore them we must assume that they are less than us,
less than human. Now I am certain that
if I were to ask you if you felt that way about those in poverty that you would
deny that accusation. I am not trying to
be difficult here. But do you not look
away? Do you silently hope that they
don’t see you? You may even silently
thank God that you are not in their shoes.
You are not evil; but I would say that you are unfortunately far too
normal. To see the man is to become more
than the priest or the Levite.
Regardless of the reason that the man or
woman is there we must look at them as human.
They are a human that is in need of proof that he or she has value and
is important. Too often the homeless are marginalized to such an extent that
they feel that they are not even human.
If they get to this point of feeling like an animal the thought becomes,
“Why not act like an animal?” It is
amazing that when a person is recognized as a person that they are much more
likely to act like a human.
Additionally, we need to recognize that
these men and women do not represent all of those that are in poverty. They are a minority of those in poverty. Many more are filling our shelters, couch
surfing or living in places not meant for habitation. Many of these are struggling and hoping for
more from life. But how can you know
that if you don’t stop and see these men and women. Look into their eyes and see the hope that
you will see them. All humans long to be
known and accepted.
Don’t get me wrong we don’t have to accept
the excuses or any immorality. What I am
calling us to do is to accept that this is a human that is in need of a kind
word, polite affection and at the least a smile. Later we will address the issues of
immorality, but realize the immorality is in full bloom in all levels of
What does it look like to see those in
poverty? It basically begins with not
looking away. Now that you have gone to
them, go learn about them. Hear their
stories without judging truth and lies.
As relationships build you can address discrepancies in their
stories. Simply listen to their
upbringing, pay attention to their language.
The words they choose can give you a glimpse of life as they know
Recognize that we feel uncomfortable with
things that are suddenly different or sound out of the ordinary. These men and women are the same as you and
me. Maybe to you getting up, going to
work, paying bills and sometimes learning to keep your mouth shut is
normal. To them your “normal” may feel
freaky or weird.
Seeing the poor is also different from
feeling sorry for them. Many in our
government will fall prey to this tactic.
Programs our developed and in this nation our government has decided
that these men and women cannot run their own lives so they have taken over as
absentee parents. They control and
manipulate these men and women and make them slaves to a system that is cruel
and poverty building.
When we look at the poor we will see a
strong and proud people looking to be set free.
But to get free they will need to learn new skills and be given the
encouragement that they can achieve their dreams. But to get to their dreams they will need to
drop away from the feed table of the master.
NOTE: Some that are living in poverty have become
so embarrassed by their situation that they will do what they can to look like
monsters. This is so that you will
definitely look away. The more someone
disfigures themselves the more that we should strive to honestly see them.
had compassion (Luke 10:33)
For much of our nation’s history
compassion was seen as a virtue. Maybe
we have been fatigued from all of the world’s needs. It used to be you might have heard about
hunger in Africa. Eventually these men
and women and children got faces through television. But still these were presented in
infomercials and could easily be avoided or turned off when we had enough. Today we are bombarded with needs all over
the world. It is nearly impossible to
avoid the stories of disasters and suffering in the world. Add to that, the fact that some stories are
exaggerated or even made up and it is easy to see how many have become
Some of these are crises; others have been
painful for these people for years. With
all of these desperate faces our there around us, what are we to do? My heart breaks for people in remote parts of
the planet. Shouldn’t we do
something? What can we do? The needs are too great. So we do nothing. The common man is paralyzed by the
overwhelming needs and turns on the heater a little warmer, looks out at the
snow outside and praises God that he is warm.
shouldn’t the man or woman of God do something.
Sure some will send money. This
is needed and many non-government organizations deeply appreciate the
help. Most of these agencies cannot
function without your financial help.
Unfortunately the money is more like a compassion stoplight. We hear about the needs and we send money to
ease our consciences. It stops us for
just a moment, a distraction in otherwise comfortable lives. Eventually the light turns green and we go
about our everyday lives. We are no
Even though I consider myself a
compassionate person, I find it difficult to find compassion for hundreds or
thousands. But I do find it easy to find
compassion for John, Mike or Sue. I can
ignore the damage from a storm unless I know someone that is living in the path
of that storm. I can feel sorry for
those affected; but to experience honest compassion I must know the victims.
Compassion though requires a change. We have gone to the people, we have seen the
need and now compassion demands that we do something. This is different than feeling sorry for the
poor or homeless. They do not need our
pity. They need our compassion. We reach out to them and recognize these men
and women as human beings with innate qualities that the world is losing out
on. We seek to compassionately show them
their value and call that value out of them.
We love them where they are at, but we also love them too much to let
them stay stuck where they are living.
This compassion shows itself in terms of
respect and politeness. We do not fake
this belief in these men and women. We
really believe that inside of the dirty coat, beyond the outward appearance is
a human being that is struggling to come out and change the world. I believe that cures for the world’s worse
diseases and problems are sitting in the mind of a homeless man or woman that
has been rejected by society. I believe
that we, the people, are losing out because society has rejected these men and
women. Compassion demands that we
politely lead them to the truth.
“We don’t have
a soul. We are a soul. We have a body.”
The truth is that there is incredible value in every human soul. At one time we understood this. Ancient ship manifests counted the number of
people on board in terms of souls. A
soul is of great value. Compassion means
that we must remind people of this great value.
Now this is the difficult part. In the story that Jesus shared, we know next
to nothing about the man that was robbed and left for dead. The only thing that Jesus gives us is that he
was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Maybe this guy was a murderer running away to Jericho. Maybe at home the guy beats his wife and
views pornography consistently. Just
maybe if we knew who this guy was we would secretly be happy that this man got
what he deserved? What if the man was
Muslim, or a devil worshiper or a homosexual?
Should the Samaritan stop and help?
Would we? Jesus tells us nothing
about the man except that he had a need.
That is all that matters.
Christian love demands action.
Faith requires action.
He went to Him
went to him (Luke 10:34)
It is actually pretty easy to feel sorry for
some people. You see the wounds, hear
the agony and can sense the desperation.
When you see a homeless person at the stop light you might feel the
compassion. But how about interacting
with the poor and the homeless?
If one of you says to
them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their
physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it
is not accompanied by action, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith; I have
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds James 2:16-18
Once, in the neighborhood where I lived,
medics responded to a woman who showed all of the signs of a drug
overdose. To back up this hypothesis
there was drug paraphernalia all around the room where the woman was
laying. From a distance what should be
done for her was obvious to the medics.
That was until they got up close and examined her. That is when they discovered that she had
From a distance many lawmakers and social
workers will make decisions that sound wise and helpful for the poor. There are many ideas on how to best help the
homeless. But if you don’t take time to
study the issues and more importantly to look at the long term impact of the
laws and programs that are being supported you could be making the problem
The need to look long term is a failure in
our nation. Bills are passed with the
idea of being reelected in just a few years.
What if bills were passed with the future in mind? One example from the state of Washington is a
housing program that I read about online.
The idea was that instead of paying rent for a season; the program paid
the same amount into the mortgage of a house for these men and women. The funding was decreased over time similar
to a standard housing program but when the family took up payments at the end
they were moving toward ownership. The
beauty of the program was that the next generation could eventually move into
the paid off house. Again long term
solutions. The programs offered over the
past several years are more of a band aid to the problems than a real cure.
The point is that we must up close and
personal with the issues and the difficulties of living in poverty. Try to see the world through their eyes. One way to pull this off is to try to live
one week on what you get from a food bank or one month on what you get in food
stamps. Try warming your home on a
poverty level budget or try to simply live your life for a week without a
Going to them is doing whatever it takes to
understand their world from a lens of poverty.
We must quit looking at these problems from the lens of middle class or
the wealth class.
bandaged his wounds (Luke 10:34)
In this generation simply calling 911
makes it is easy to pass the work onto other people and walk away feeling as if
we have done our part. Many will like a cause on social media and wax eloquent
on the evils of our world without ever being involved. The Samaritan in the story was involved. It would have been unlikely that he had a Red
Cross approved first aid kit on his donkey saddle. No this man ripped his own clothing in his
attempt to offer care to the man beat up and left for dead. It cost him something. In modern terms this would be giving up a
coffee twice a week so that you can donate ten dollars to help those
experiencing hunger, homelessness and hopelessness. I know that it would hurt you do so. If all the Samaritan did was to bandage the
wounds, maybe I would say that you sacrificed enough. But the lesson of the Samaritan includes
going into his stock pile of wine and oil and using them for the man. He gave
him what he needed. He cared for the
real needs because earlier he had stopped and really looked at the man. As he looked at him he would have looked for
evidence of life, he would have sought out what was actually wrong. Maybe the person in poverty needs someone to
believe in them. Possibly they need
someone to give them a ride to a job interview.
Often times what those in poverty needs is a friend who can mentor and
coach them forward. We often become like
the people that we hang out with, who will they become if they hang out with
Does a man need food when he is flying the
sign with a cigarette in his hand? He
likely does, but he is unwilling to sacrifice himself. Your bandages will be wasted on him. The Samaritan only bandaged his real wounds. This gets tricky because for many in poverty
they like to demand their rights. They
fail to understand that you also have the right not to help them, unless they
also are willing to be a part of the solution.
brought him to an inn (Luke 10:34)
The Samaritan put him on his
own donkey and took him to the inn.
There does not seem to be a moment where the Samaritan asks himself,
“Should I be doing this? I just had my
donkey detailed and he might throw up on the upholstery.” There seems to be little concern for the
obvious issues that will possibly present themselves. He is totally focused on helping this man and
making sure that he will get every chance of survival. There is no guarantee that the man will even
make it to the inn. If he dies did the
Samaritan waste his time and resources?
Some would say yes, but Jesus is telling us no. We must do the best we can with what we have.
While it is critical that love and care for
folks must start with us, it cannot stop there.
We must introduce them to experts that can help them with the things
that have caused them to experience the crisis.
In this age of specialization it is unlikely that any one person or agency
will be able to offer all of the help that this person will need. They may need mental health help, spiritual
development help, physical health help and much more. This person may very well need help with an
addiction, overcome legal issues and may have some family issues that will need
help. This is why it is imperative for
agencies, churches, government and businesses to work together. Every echelon of society can play a part in
the healing of this person. In essence
the inn is a central place that can bring all of these Good Samaritan inn
keepers together as needed.
Even beyond these specialists we must
realize that we are all in this together.
If we really want lower taxes, lower crime rates, better customer
service and in short a better community we must sit down together as a
community. This will not be easy, as
many will come with their own agendas. I
have an agenda and everyone else in the room will come with theirs. The key though is that we define what we want
to accomplish and listen to one another.
Results will come quickly when we all put our hands to the plow
What are some other versions of the” guy beat
up alongside the road” that you can think of?
What does real help look like? (Do to, do for, do with?)
What are the barriers within your community
that may prevent agencies, businesses or churches from working together?
What are the most common versions of the “man
beat up alongside the road” look like in your community?