Tuesday, July 17, 2012

In the Face of Poverty

In our morning Bible study before work, we as a staff are working through the book of Proverbs. There are so many themes that we pull out in this rich book every day, but one that continually reoccurs is the rich vs. the poor man. Sometimes this seems very literal. Do x gain wealth, do y lose wealth. Other times it seems to refer to more spiritual or moral poverty or wealth. But in the midst of all of this learning, the topic of beggars came up.

At home, I live in the suburbs. I have my whole life. Until I went to college where I live in the cornfields. In these settings, I see very few beggars on the street. This might also be compounded by the fact that 8 months out of the year it is freezing and we have penguins for neighbors. But anyway, I have never on a daily basis had to look poverty in the eye and decide what to do about it.

That is not the case here. There are homeless people all around. There is one woman who sits at the top of our street on a bench. For awhile we didn't know if she had a home. But, she carries a couple bags and is always wearing the same clothes and is almost always on that bench, so I'm going to assume she lives there. We invited her over for dinner and she actually has showed a couple times. Now I say hi to her if I see her around, and a couple times she has given us gifts of pudding and marshmallows she bought at the store.

But that is just one woman, what to do about the dozens of others I've seen? Most social workers I know always say not to just hand out money, but to support ministries that can help the homeless get clothing, lodging, and jobs since we don't know what the money will go to otherwise. I get that; it makes sense. But it doesn't ease my conscious. I don't want to always be judgmental and critical of someone who might honestly be trying to survive. Like today, when a handful of clothing items and sheets when missing from the wash line, I want to be upset at this injustice. But it is likely that the person who took them needs them far more than we do.

I don't have the answers... If I did I could probably solve worldwide poverty. But for now I will just remember Proverbs 19:17: "Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done."

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