Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009

On poverty

I subscribe to a livejournal community called "Poorskills" The community gives tips on how to save money on various things, ways to do things better or more cheaply, and so although I'm not today poor, I find these skills valuable.
Today I woke up to see this post.

The poster talks about how this country has gone from at least tolerating the poor ( of course, there wouldn't have been any need for Reverend Jackson to do something like this if there hadn't been some stigma even then) to a time when something like this is seen as totally out of nowhere. And it's true - today, to do a piece like this, where someone publicly led the poor in chanting that they had inherent worth, would be pretty much unthinkable - even on Sesame Street.

What has happened to us as a nation? Even in the comments, I notice a few people talking about people gaming the system - and sure, there are people doing that, but people end up gaming the system when the system can't meet their needs. It's not great and fun to be on welfare. You don't live well, and it's not luxury. People who are lying to receive more benefits are doing it because they can't get along any other way.

And we are so judgmental about who is on welfare. But there's not way to know who is really on welfare, or who will need it. The Torah tells us that when our hands are open the poor will disappear from the land. Our hands should be open, because all of us are just a few bad days away from welfare and charity ourselves - a car accident, your health insurance refusing to pay up for a serious condition (or disenrolling you after years of honest payment, because they don't want to pay out for your condition), a job loss (which in this economy people should understand, but somehow don't seem to) a job that doesn't pay enough - there are people out there working two or three jobs and still not really making enough to pay for rent and food, let alone health care.

I wish for more generosity of heart for all of us. Not just because any of us, at anytime, could need help - indeed, that is the very premise of religion - all of us depend upon God's grace - the Torah says that when we are wealthy, we will come to believe that our comfort is the result of our hands and the work of our hands, but that we are wrong. None of us own anything, no matter how we fool ourselves.
But even if we did, those who didn't are still, all of us, God's children.

By the way, I had occasion to meet the Reverend Jackson once,and the man is just enormously tall.