Wednesday, June 21, 2006

214. feeding the homeless (part one)

This Sunday, our house church joined up with a couple other house churches and we went to a shelter put together by the State and we fed the homeless. And for me, it was a heart-warming, inspirational experience for me because it really felt like we got the chance to be (in our earnest, but imperfect way) Jesus to these people. And it we didn't bring angry Jesus or judgmental Jesus or transactional (we'll feed you if you agree to try and get your life together) Jesus. We simply arrived with food and fed as many as we could and we prayed with those who wanted prayer. And we asked for nothing in return.

And I think again about the conservative ideology that I immersed myself in while I was in college in the mid-nineties. I think about how so many politicians and pundits were talking about reducing the size of entitlement programs like welfare. Basically, the reasoning went that there were millions of people sponging off the system, leeching off of welfare programs so that they wouldn't have to work, and the way to break this cycle was to reduce funding for the welfare programs that allowed these people to live lazily off of the tax-paying worker so that they'd be forced to work themselves. They basically painted all poor people as lazy individuals who would rather stand in line for a welfare check than go to work. The argument conservatives made was that if there was no check at the end of that line, that they'd be forced to get off their lazy butts and get the job that they'd been avoiding.

I had that reduced-entitlements drum beat into my head over and over again and so while I was there at the homeless shelter, it came to mind.

And I work at a staffing company (basically a temp-service) and so I get to see first-hand, the kind of spoiled, lazy, don't-want-to-lift-a-finger workers that conservatives use as examples of the need for welfare reform. Every morning we get calls from work-sites where our employees failed to show up. And we call these people and while most of them have the dignity to make up an excuse (feeble as they usually are), some come right out and say that they just didn't think they had to show up and would we please leave them alone so they can get back to sleep. And then when payday comes around, they make a big stink about how they worked a quarter hour more than what's shown on their timecard and we better get on the phone and do our job to make sure they get every penny that they have coming to them. And after we fire them for not showing up to yet another job, they march straight into the unemployment office to charge up their EBT card.

I run into these kinds of people on a weekly basis and there's a part of me that says, "yeah, why should the tax dollars that come out of the work that I do go to buy meals for people who are too lazy to even make up an excuse not to go to work?"


But then there's the man I met, that night at the shelter, who has diabetes and he hurt his back in an accident that wasn't his fault and so now he can't work and so he thanks us for the food and for listening to his story. And then there are the women whose husbands left them with children to raise, to feed, to discipline, and to love. Some of them came to Hawaii from Micronesia and Guam and Saipan and so they don't have family that they call call upon to babysit. How is someone like that supposed to find the time and the energy to find, let alone keep, a job? And even if she found a job, who would watch her children?

I suppose in an ideal world. we would have a system where the sponges would get filtered out so that there would be enough support money to get those who really need help back on their feet. But we don't have that system yet and so the question is, what will we do in the mean time?

And I think of the parable of the sheep and the goats and how Jesus doesn't make a big deal of sorting between the needy who deserve help and the needy who don't.

Oops. I didn't mean for this to be such a rant. I originally wanted to talk about the good things I saw about feeding the homeless. I'll try and get to that tomorrow, but for now, to bed.

Stay tuned.

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