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Are we angry at the poor?

Are you sometimes angry at the poor?  Do you ever angrily make comments like “They’re getting a free ride,” or “If they can afford cigarettes and booze and pets, they can afford to feed themselves,” or “It’s their fault.  They’re the ones who made the bad choices,” or “It’s not fair how the government happily helps people on welfare, but won’t help honest working people when they are in trouble”?  I suspect we all make these kinds of comments, or at least think them.  I know I do (that last comment especially…).

Is our anger justified?  Is anger a helpful approach?  In his post, “Anger at the poor,”  Damaris Zehner lists a number of reasons why people get so angry at the poor:

  •  because poor people in our nation don’t fit our notions of what poverty really is; they have lots of stuff really we think truly poor people should not have
  •  because we feel they exploit the system, abusing welfare benefits and employment insurance and so on
  •  because we feel that they have made poor personal choices, and don’t deserve help and compassion
  •  because we feel that when we have to share what we have (by donating or by taxes etc), the poor are getting our stuff for free, taking away the happiness we’ve worked so hard for ourselves
  •  because no matter how much we help out the poor, some of them just stubbornly stay poor
  •  because it makes us feel better about ourselves, our superiority, in contrast
  •  because we think anger is an appropriate response to exploitation, unfairness, or wrongdoing

In the post, Damaris goes on to discuss, “What is the proper Christian attitude toward the poor in today’s complicated economic and political climate?”  His answers are the answers of Jesus, of scripture, of the church fathers.  There is no room for anger, only for compassion.  Toward all.

Damaris explores each of the points above in some detail, as well as looking in the Christian attitude question in detail.  Read the full article here and then come back and share your thoughts in our comments section below:

Question: What makes you angry about the poor?  Do you agree that we must always be compassionate?  Are there times when compassion is not deserved or helpful?  Do you think the “proper Christian attitude” is right, or is overly naive in today’s situations?

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Why is poverty still with us in Canada?

Have you wondered how it is that there are so many people living in poverty in such a wealthy nation as Canada?

More to the point, do you really even KNOW people who are living in poverty?  Have you really talked with them?  Do you have any idea why they’ve ended up living like they are?  Do you have any ideas of how you can be part of real change?

Check out this article by Sheila Wray Gregoire.   Sheila suggests that the underlying reasons for poverty – and the truly effective solutions – may not be what we expect!

Poverty of Relationship

July 29, 2011

We live in the one of the best countries in the world. We have unspoiled nature, but we also have beautiful, clean cities. We have freedom. We have relative prosperity. We have health.
And so it’s jarring when we see homeless people. How can we have such poverty in such a wonderful country? Across Canada we have opened homeless shelters and food banks. We have public housing. We have breakfast and lunch programs for poor children. We provide welfare, job retraining, legal aid, and more.
Yet despite decades of these programs, poverty is still with us. And so we continue to throw money at the problem. In fact, we throw so much money at it that we could likely bring each and every poor person out of poverty just by giving them the cash we spend on programs—though I wouldn’t advocate that. Despite poverty programs, poverty isn’t disappearing.
I recently heard a talk by Tim Huff, an author and homeless advocate, who posited that the reason we’re not curing poverty is that we don’t understand it. We think we’re talking about poverty of resources—people don’t have enough money, or food, or stuff, and so we try to help them get more money or food or stuff.
But what if that’s not really the problem? He went on to explain that in his work with the homeless, he has discovered that they suffer far less from poverty of resources than they do from poverty of relationship. When people have real community, they will weather storms like job loss or family breakdown. On the other hand, if someone has no community, then what should be a relatively minor setback can cause them to lose their home.
I was stunned as I listened to him, because it made so much sense and yet I had never thought of it that way. And my mind wandered to two women I know only peripherally. Both became pregnant at age 20. There, though, the similarity ends. One has supportive parents, who have set up the nursery, and are caring for the baby so that she can go to school for the next few years to become a nurse. The other has alcoholic parents. She is now living in a subsidized apartment, caring for her baby alone.
I thought of my own mother, who was penniless when my father left. We lived with grandparents for a time and then with my aunt and uncle for a few years while my mother got on her feet. We had a church community that helped with baby-sitting and the occasional gift when she needed it. And my mother managed to thrive, without ever going on welfare. Today, she spends her retirement days trying to be that community to other women who need help.
The problem with attacking poverty as a money issue, Tim said, is that you’re dealing with the symptom, and not the root of the problem. The real issue is that we have a breakdown of family and of community. Those with a close family and a close community are not harmed by occasional financial setbacks. Those with chaotic families are, because everybody is too busy dealing with their own issues to help you with yours.
We can keep throwing money at the problem, but it’s not going to fix it, because it’s not a poverty of resources. It’s a poverty of relationship. And government can’t replace the family. Until we can rebuild families, and rebuild communities, there will always be people who fall through the cracks. We need strong families to raise strong people, and today those are in short supply. So if you want to help with poverty, build your marriage. Raise great kids. Encourage community at your school or your church. Let’s build relationships, which really are the best weapon to fight poverty.

(This article is from Sheila’s newspaper column, “Sheila’s Reality Check.”  You can also receive the column by email, here. )

What do you think?  Is “poverty of relationship” a serious problem?  If it is, how far does our individual responsibility go in solving the problem?  As far as our family?  Relatives?  Close friends?  Church?  or farther?  How does this work out in practical ways?  We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.  Thanks!

Getting a taste of homelessness

Ever wonder what homelessness might feel like?  Ever wonder how the lives of homeless people have anything to do with your life?

David Zimmerman writing at Red Letter Christians wonders about these things.  He’s had a slight taste of it.  Here’s a bit from his observations:

I breathed in exhaust fumes from local traffic, stepped over litter and potholes, kept one eye open for a place that would have me and wouldn’t kick me out. There weren’t many. I’ll be honest: I’m sort of waiting for someone to ask me to leave the premises …

… the homeless people I know are walking someplace as specific as it is arbitrary: they’re making their way from one shelter to another, from one service provider to another, from one job opportunity to another. The point of walking is specific, but the destination is based on the whim of whatever church has opted to open its doors overnight, whatever part of town a local government has zoned to allow social service providers to open up shop, wherever the jobs happen to be today. Meanwhile, drivers in car-based towns assume that walkers are walking aimlessly; pedestrians are nuisances to cars, regardless of how dangerous cars are to pedestrians.

In Matthew 25, Jesus talks about how he hides himself in the naked and hungry and homeless and unjustly treated. We’re supposed to do unto them what we say we would do unto him. But seeing Jesus in someone sweaty and uncomfortable and cranky (and, frankly, sometimes certifiable) isn’t as easy as it sounds. And more often than not we’re actually seeing ourselves as Jesus instead.

It’s not something we do on purpose; it just happens, because it’s easier to see ourselves as Jesus than to see someone yucky as Jesus. It’s easier for us, who try so hard to emulate our Messiah, to incarnate than to identify, to witness to someone than to witness Christ in someone.

Read the rest here.

A website for homeless people

Just found an excellent website, Homeless Nation,  for those of you who are on the streets here in Penticton or travelling through.  It lists resources for major cities across Canada (information in English and French), and for smaller cities like Penticton you can type the name of the city in the search box to find out what’s been posted.  There is some up-to-date (June/July 2011) info for Penticton.

The site also is a good place to seek information on people you want to locate.

Also an important site for the rest of you to visit if you care about homeless people and want to hear their stories.

Go check out the Homeless Nation website now!

Youth group from Seattle comes to help

10 July 2011

Wonderful sunny morning at Another Chance Street Ministry breakfast!  We enjoyed meeting a number of folks who are new to our community – here for summer orchard jobs and such.  We also were blessed with a group of youth from a community near Seattle who drove all the way here to Penticton to help us out.  Everybody appreciated all the fruit and other food they brought; the clothes to share with the needy; and most of all their friendliness and helpfulness.  Thank you and God bless!

Sunday morning breakfasts start again tomorrow!

2 July 2011

Pastor Peter and Tineka are back from their holiday.  So Sunday morning breakfast will start up again tomorrow.  Come join us in the yard of the St. Andrew’s Presbyterian stone church on Martin Street, anytime between 6 and 9 am.  See you there!

Here are a few snapshots of some of our family, out enjoying the sunshine and activities at Canada Day yesterday.

YOU are the real solution

our town, this week

Do you think to yourself, “It’s okay if I don’t help out people who are in poverty or trouble?  After all, I pay my taxes, and those taxes help to support Social Services for poor people.”

Think again!  I read an article the other day about this issue.  The writer, Keith Giles, lives in California.  But the story he tells, and the points he makes, are true wherever you are.  Listen to some of what he writes:

I’ve been running around today trying to help a family with a 3 week old baby….

What really breaks my heart is knowing that organizations that I’ve championed for years cannot do a thing to actually help these people. The truth is, I’m learning, they never were capable of actually helping anyone beyond the 10 or 12 people they were currently helping, even though they were receiving millions of dollars a year from the Government to fight homelessness in Orange County. (Most of their funding finances are spent on paying their staff and keeping the lights on in their facilities).

I think when it really comes down to it the only real solution to helping people like this are you and me. The followers of Jesus have to step up and help. We have to invest our lives in their lives. We have to let them sleep on our couches, or lend them money to buy food, or share our resources with them, or put them up in a motel until they can get help, or they will never get off the streets.

The system is designed to keep people on the streets….

All we can do is help one person, or one family like this, at a time. The system is broken. The shelters are full. The rescue mission is understaffed and their waiting lists are so long that people will die of exposure before they get one of those beds.

Only those who claim to follow Jesus can ever hope to make a difference. How? By giving until it hurts and by serving those who can never pay us back. By sharing what we don’t want to give up and by allowing the problems of the homeless and the poor to become our problems.

We’ll have to love more than we think we can. We’ll have to give more than we’re expecting to. We’ll have to do even greater things than these.

Go to Keith’s blog, subversive1, and read the details of the story of this family in need.  Read about how and why the system, sadly, fails over and over again.

And then, ask yourself, “Is paying my taxes enough?  Can I do more?  As a follower of Jesus, how can I truly be part of the solution?”

Now GO OUT AND LOVE.  Give, serve, share.  Invest your life.  Walk with Jesus today.  Please.