Sunday, September 13, 2009

An Epidemic of Homelessness

So I was sitting in the directors' meeting last week, and I shared how were are starting The Truth Project this fall for adult ministries. And one or two people in the meeting wondered if we might run out of space for all the attenders. And I said, "I doubt it. Let's see how many come before we create worries that don't even exist.

Well, I was wrong. The people started coming in about 10:18 and didn't stop for the next 35 minutes. By the time all the chairs were in, and the people were seated, there were 45 people and 4 oxygen molecules in the room. A few were standing in the doorway or sitting out in the hall. Moments later, we began The Truth Project. It's a DVD series from Focus on the Family that explores how Christianity deals with every aspect of life and society. We are taking each DVD in two halves... we watch for about 25 minutes, then talk about what we've seen in the context of brothers and sisters in Christ. Even in the squeeze today, it worked pretty well. The people discussed actively and made some good connections. We also dug into some spiritual truths about what the unsaved person is like and how transformative God is to bring us to his family and himself.

After lunch, we went to Walmart with all the kids. There were two homeless guys begging at the turn into the parking lot. Evan surveyed the situation and then said, "We should do something for that guy."

We shopped. We loaded our stuff. Then Evan said, "Aren't we going to do something for that guy?" (one of them had left). So I said, "What do you want to do?"
And he said, "Could we give him some money or something?"
And I said, "Your money or my money? Are you willing to give him your own money?"

Well, he thought for a minute and then said, "Yeah. You give me the money and I'll work it off." So Tara handed him four quarters that we had in the change holder up front, and Evan walked over to the man and gave him the money. When he returned to the van, Tara looked at me and said, "Good job, Honey. You taught him compassion."

I said, "No, I did not. I taught him the difference between a Democrat and a Republican." And she started to laugh, gently at first, then harder as the reality sank in. Of course Evan wanted to know what was going on, so I repeated myself.

"Evan," I said, "I've just taught you the difference between a Democrat and a Republican. A Democrat helps the poor by taking other people's money and giving it to them. A Republican helps the poor by giving them his own money."

Of course, that's a massive oversimplification, but the core of it is true. It takes very little charity to give away someone else's money. It takes real character and faith to give away your own.


Marti said...

outstanding lesson with a good core truth!

Anonymous said...

I am interested in your opinion of the Truth Project. Holy Cross used it. I am wondering if I can use it - though my pastor is about as easy to influence as a bandersnatch (C. S. Lewis about Tolkien)

SaraRC said...

I gotta tell you that my Republican Dad would never have given him money (probably part of what made me become a Democrat; I can see myself winding up there somehow, despite my 4.0 in nursing school... there's a lot of There But For the Grace of God Go I in some of us non-believers, oddly enough).

I did finally persuade my Dad that fine, if he thought homeless people would just drink the money (spend it at one of his his liquor stores?!) or whatever, perhaps it would be appropriate to buy a sandwich and just give it to them. He didn't have much of a response to that until weeks later, when I had totally forgotten about it; he asked one of his millionaire corporate friends what he thought and neither of them could come up with anything wrong with me idea.

Score one for compassion? I don't know.

Yeah, I come from a family with money, I'm a kooky liberal agnostic, and I will happily give my own money to homeless people. I do appreciate that there are plenty of compassionate Republicans out there like you; perhaps I was just raised by the wrong bunch.

It's part of what made me leave the Catholic church, actually... the complete and utter ability to ignore the social justice message inherent in that Church's teachings.

I've pretty much decided I'm going to have to be my parents' one big disappointment. I have my crazy high GPA and I'm a bit of a workaholic (unless we're talking housework anyway, I'm terrible at that), but I'm not the person they wish I was.

Gah, is that enough for you to psychoanalyze yet? What ARE we non-saved people like? ;)

btw, that is very sweet what your child did and I appreciate that you didn't stomp on the impulse the way my Dad stomped on mine. I still remember it was in San Francisco, we were on vacation and I was maybe 12...

Everett said...

Regarding the oversimplification, it's an unfair comparison since as taxpayers the Democrats would be giving their own money as well. Perhaps it would be as fair to say that the Democrat wants to make sure everyone is provided for through a systematic approach to social problems while the Republican is willing to sacrifice people to the vagaries of individual compassion and generosity. I don't much like oversimplifications.

Tara said...

[Jim writing] So I ignited a bit of response here. Yes, the Democrat would be giving his/her own money in the sense of taxation; however, at least to me that doesn't feel like compassion because it's so distant. What percentage of your tax even went to it? Can you now feel that you have contributed your part charitably?

Then there is the issue of government waste. The real help that individuals need gets funneled through the salaries of those paid to provide it.

For myself, I hate it that people could get sacrificed to the vagaries of compassion. However, minimal taxation would open the door to prosperity and hugely increased compassion. Obviously I'm not to brag about what I give or don't give, but I think I'd give a lot more if it were available.

What I object to is the mandate to support others. When volunteerism is mandated, you no longer are a volunteer.

SaraRC said...

lol, I was raised Catholic and to get confirmed we had to volunteer (ironically, I'd rather volunteer almost anywhere than go back to being Catholic...).

I'm kind of where Everett (hi Everett!) is: I take your point, Jim, but I don't think it's fair to ascribe massive generalizations to "Republicans" or "Democrats." Both parties have a wide variety of people who subscribe to their general philosophies; any one person might have a different reason for taking on a particular label.

But yeah, I would absolutely give more, too, if I had more. I suppose I will, someday (assuming I ever get a job after this absurd nursing program ends - and I guess I could inherit a bunch someday, but my parents aren't allowed to die, so I think that's basically out!).

Sometimes I try to imagine my taxes going to things I would generally support, other times I realize a bunch of them go to things I don't. But I kind of find that to be the price of living here; if I don't like a program, I could agitate against it or vote against its supporters.

I'm a huge public health person now (again, I blame nursing school); I love that Minnesota has a great rep nationally for its public health work. An example: if any person in MN is diagnosed with tuberculosis, that person receives the meds for that disease free from the state. Doesn't matter if you are the poorest or richest person; you get them. The reason is not the cost, oddly - they aren't expensive drugs at all. It is because the real issue with TB is that the drugs have to be taken consistently for at least 6 months; this requires follow-up from professionals at the state level. If you *don't* take drugs consistently, you're not just endangering your own health, but everyone around you, as the TB changes to become a resistant strain. It's a public health threat.

The other thing I've been thinking/hoping my tax dollars are going to lately is my friend Jean's husband Randy, who is off to Afghanistan with the National Guard. I barely know Randy, but Jean is the most amazing person in our class - and she's handling their 17 and 9 year olds, and their new baby boy by herself this last term. (Jeans claims she has to have a baby every 8 years, lol).

Annnnnyway, my experience of most Republicans in my family is not very positive or generous (I love them, but find them infuriating in a lot of ways), but obviously I can't measure them all by that stick...

SaraRC said...

I had to come back to leave another comment about my Dad, because I feel bad calling about calling him ungenerous; he *can* be, but he's generally not willing to cut strangers of any kind any slack.

He is quite funny sometimes. One time he called me because he thought he might be having a stroke - he wanted to know if I thought he should go to the emergency room. (Um, YES!) He also gave my son a bicycle that, when you look at it closely, advertises some brand of vodka (he bought so many cases of the brand for the store and got this bike... lol. I don't know what to do about that one!)

Okay, back to procrastinating on homework. Sigh.