Offer your heart of love to the poor

I saw this comment on you tube about the poor in response to an ABC news piece on the issue. ” The poor are stupid. It’s not hard to get an education and move up the ladder. I’m glad they stay poor because the world needs McDonald’s and Wal-Mart “associates.”  Those who truly care about the plight of the poor would find such a statement shocking, and even disgusting. I as a Christian and a social advocate bristle whenever such words of intolerance and seething hatred  are written or spoken.

I have worked on the front lines of social services seeing the faces of poverty up close.  As one who trained extensively in counseling they come with what is called sad effect. Their faces show the ravages of poverty etched with the marks on their faces of suffering and despair. They ask only to be part of a community that cares, that hears their concerns. They ask only for a job and a good education.

It’s not enough that they suffer with the misery of poverty. They also have to endure the wilfull ignorance of those who spew hatred like this ignorant you tube commenter, who has no compassion for those who struggle to survive.

Most pieces on poverty bury you in statistics that you ignore because numbers alone don’t touch your heart or mine. I’m not going to do that. Instead, I will paint a picture of what poverty means for those who suffer its injustice and inhumanity. I hope in doing so I will inspire you to be an instrument of change in your community.

I urge you to hold your duly elected officials to the fire. It is their role to be your representatives. Yet, if you remain silent, you tell the government that poverty is not any of your concern. You tell them it’s okay to ignore the problem, to focus on other issues.

Poverty wears the face of despair and a growing hopelessness of the spirit. As time goes by without any help hope dies. It is far easier for those who live in the stinking misery of poverty to give up hope.  Dreaming and believing there can be a better future is too painful. It just hurts too much to hope when hope’s dreams are beaten down over and over again.

I have seen the poor come to the family services office I was working in looking for help with food assistance. Sometimes, I would vomit seeing the growing sea of poverty come begging, pleading for even three days worth of food.  The clients stop looking directly at you. The cruelty, abuse they experience from a cold-hearted system that denies them opportunity to thrive and  a growing societal intolerance to their situation wears them down.  There is no brightness left in their eyes. The light that once shone dies its slow and miserable death. Many times they cry before my eyes in in a torrent of sadness. I find it hard, really hard to fight back my own tears. But I must fight them back because I am here to help them, to offer them the agape compassion of Christ.

The attitude that exists even with some members of our churches speaks to the heart of the problem. When I was in need of help with some basic necessities while on welfare I went to a wealthy person in our church for help. He said, “Go speak to family services. That’s what I give my tithe for.” Here I was reaching out to a fellow brother of Christ asking for some help. I got nothing but rejection and disdane.

The atttitude of I gave at the office is a large part of the problem. You cannot legislate an attitude. You can’t make people do the right thing. Only God can make a cold heart into a warm and giving heart.

What I am asking you to do is examine your heart. Ask your Lord if there is anything you can do to be an advocate for the poor in your communiy. Join a group that fights for the rights of the poor. Volunteer at your church or a local food bank. Do something if you aren’t already to be a voice of hope and compassion for the poor.

All of us could become poor. Many people are only a few days or weeks from having no money to live on. It is too easy to say there isn’t enough money because those poor people sit at home, watch mindless TV, drink beer and eat popcorn.

Certainly, some who are poor make poor choices on the use of their limited funds. But ask yourself how you can make $520 stretch to pay for your rent, food, clothes, transportation and toletry articles. I had to do that when I was on welfare. My rent was $400 a month. I lived in a dingy basement room so small I could barely turn around in it, but I was still thankful. It was a place to escape to when the pain of poverty became too much to endure. It was my oasis from having to go to one job interview after the other hearing what to me became an evil mantra. “You’re overqualified. You have too much experience. ”

I recall one night as if it was yesterday. I poured my heart out to the Lord. I said, “Lord, I can’t take this journey anymore. The memory of offering what little remained on my phone card for a bus ride back to my little sanctuary I called home is etched on my mind and heart forever. The person I asked for help looked at me with disgust. She judged me. When I needed her compassion she offered me her callous heart. I yelled out, “Father, take me home!” Tears flowed. “Oh, God, please be merciful and let me die!! Father, the comment from a man claiming to be my friend at church eats away at my soul. “I know why you are a failure. You’re lazy.”

Lazy? Did he care one second about my every moment of pain, of trying to get work. Did he go to job interviews slanting his chair because with my severe astigmatism before surgery, my eyes went in two different directions. I was afraid I would be judged as not focusing on the interviewer(s) because I could not look them directly in the eyes. I grew weary of having to explain time and time again that’s why I needed to have the chair slanted.

I was one of the blessed ones. God spoke to the hearts of some friends and family. Friends would arrive with a Tim Horton’s coffee and more importantly their love. Friends my wife and I dearly love would come with groceries. A woman of God who is one of my closest friends  would always know when I was leaving items off of the grocery list. She would say, “Kevin, what are you leaving out?”

I was being taught the importance of the gift of receiving. I am still learning that lesson. I still on the limited funds of Ontario Disability fail to ask for the help I need as the costs for my medical care rise bercause of two auto immune conditions.  It attacks my dignity every time I need to ask for help.

My hope is no different from yours. I simply want a career apart from the graduate missions studies I am taking. I am continuing with a Master of Divinity program at Trinity College along with my wife, Karen, who will be starting her journey with me in the same program starting January 2014. This dream is only possible because of a generous bursary covering 85% of our fees.

My desire is to be independent of disability.

Yet, I am only one of many who dream to be given the opportunity to work. Most on welfare or disability seek to be contributors to society. Why I ask are we not given those opportunities to be free from social assistance? Why do I have to fight so hard to convince people I can make a contribution and get paid for it?

I raise my voice about poverty because the love of Christ for the suffering compels me to do so. I pray many voices will join with mine as we seek together to be God’s instruments of change for a more loving and hopeful world.

I asked for $197 to take a skype singing course with Roger Burnley. I was told that dream was impractical when I have demonstrated to many that the Lord has gifted me as a singer. Roger Burnley http://www.rogerburnley.com is a famous vocal coach, who was improving my voice with his over 20 years of experience in vocal coaching.  We couldn’t afford the ongoing training.

It’s hard for some of those who have so much to get their heads around the fact, that so many don’t even have enough food to eat. They live a sheltered existence away from the suffering of others. “Go away. That’s what I give my tithes for, so I don’t have to be bothered by weaklings like you.”

Poverty is a killer of dreams. It extinguishes hope. It steals away the light of joy. It eats away at the spirit and kills the body. It shortens life as hope dies its slow tortorous death, killing the spirit and then the body.

There is more than enough wealth in the world, that no mother should have to look into the eyes of their children, and pray for them to die. Death becomes a greater mercy to many because of the gnawing pain of hunger.

It is an angering thing when the only hope left for a person is that they would have one meal a day. The greed that strangles hope, that worships the god of materialism must be angering God’s heart. It must be infuriating Christ like He was incensed when He overturned the tables of the money changers  at the temple in Jerusalem for carrying on the business of buying and selling in his Father’s house of prayer. He scolded the merchants for making it into a market place from the  original Greek  “emporion”, from which we get the English word” emporium.” He was so angry that He used a whip made from rope to chase the merchants out of the temple (John 2:15-16).

The sight of that malnourished child in that video you watched riveted me. Yet, to save our sanity we have to often turn away from such images of suffering. God understands. He knows you care. He knows you want to help. He asks you not to allow your politicians to sweep the problem under the rug, to say it is impossible to solve the problem of poverty. Thank God there are politicians who do care. I have spoken with many of them. They want to do all they can to rid poverty from their province, state and country. They ask for our help, our ideas. Let’s all give them what they say they want.

I know that those who follow this blog do care. Many do not. They have either stopped caring or they never cared. Others need to be encouraged.

Keep up the great work you are doing to fight the war against poverty! I use military language because we should be seeing poverty as the enemy. We need to fight for victory over it just like soldiers fight to win against their enemy. Poverty is the enemy of hope. It is the enemy that kills dreams. It holds its capives in prisons of unrelenting torment and despair.

Together we can build a better communities and a kinder world where poverty of the body and the spirit are addressed. Stand up against the winds of opposition you will face in speaking out the truth God wants us all to speak. He is sick and tired of poverty. There is no need for it. Where greed lives poverty will thrive. Greed is the parasite of hope. It feeds on the misery of others as wealth is hoarded and not shared.

I know rich people who do care. They use the blessing of their wealth to help those in need. I commend them for their tireless efforts in addressing the plight of the poor.

Together we can make a difference.

I leave you with Mother Teresa’s Song to inspire you as you seek by God’s amazing grace to live out the passion of serving Christ with love and humility.

Source: http://www.orlutheran.com/html/bscleans.html

http://marmarthunder.wordpress.com

6 responses to “Offer your heart of love to the poor

  1. Well, there should always be checks and balances. 5o years ago, In Detroit Michigan when at its height of prosperity, when there was lots of jobs, lots of business, lots of opportunity, they kicked out all conservatives and said, “This is our city.” Sad to say, 50 years later, corruption, and mismanagement have sunk that city into a wasteland of no jobs, no opportunities, no business and sadly no money for the poor. Though Liberal Democrats made many promises, in the end they couldn’t do it. It isn’t as simple as kicking out conservatives.
    Here in Chicago-land where Democrats rule, liberals rule, our state has one of the worst records of actually taking care of the poor. While salaries and perks for the Government workers is nice, sadly funding for the mentally ill, the poor, and the aged has been completely stopped. The more liberal this place gets, the less they take care of the poor. That’s because special interests, Unions, and everyone else with connections gets their hand in the pot and takes the money that was taxed for the poor, and it goes into pensions etc.
    While the liberal governments here make sure that they get all their pay and pensions, the nurses aids who provide government day care for the aged often don’t get paid for months, “Sorry, we’re out of funds.” Mismanagement of funds is to blame. Everyone is scratching everyone elses back, getting rich, raising taxes in the name of the poor, then taking that money for other things. It is very sad. There has to be checks and balances.
    ps, While you call Canada Conservative, we here in America think of it as liberal. That is, you have socialized medicine, socialized this and that, and I find it funny that now that they are bankrupt and have no money, to cover themselves, they are blaming it on the conservatives.
    People want to work. Current liberal policies have caused many americans to lose their jobs due to companies, in order to stay afloat, cutting jobs. There must be checks and balances between liberals and conservatives. Unfortunately too much power corrupts.

    • Hi Michele

      Of course, you are right. There does need to be checks and balances. Politicians need to be more careful making promises they may never be able to keep. Proper budgetary management allows for the continuation of government and community initiatives.

      I agree with you that too much power can corrupt. The authority given to politicians is a bond of trust they make with those who elected them and even those who did not. A politician I know says he would like to see more of his colleagues stand up for their convictions. All too often a poliitician who says he or she will be an instrument of change loses that idealism in order to compromise at the cost of integrity, in order to have their policy ideas adopted.

      Thank you for educating me about how Americans view what is Conservative and Liberal. Just for your knowledge in both our provincial and federal governments we have the following party structue: Conservatives, Liberals, New Democratic Party, Green Party (environmental issues) as well as a series of fringe parties. We view the New Democrats as having more of a social policy agenda than the Conservatives or the Liberals. The Liberals do focus on social programs, but not to the same extent as the New Democrats.

      Have a great week!

      Kevin

  2. My daughter, for her college, worked one summer in a home for the disabled in Spokane Washington. One of the things that bothered me most, was that people are unaware that it is there, and that funds are so low, that my daughter said there wasn’t enough food. It broke my heart to think of all the wealth that is out there, and that so few give!
    I hate to change the subject- but as to your 2 auto – immune issues- have you ever tried removing ALL dairy from your diet? Because of learning that in a book I read, I don’t need any medication for rheumatoid arthritis. (If I cheat too much, with pizza or chocolate, it starts coming back though:D ) Removing dairy makes all the symptoms, the inflammation etc go away better than any medication AND it doesn’t have the long standing long term effects of using strong medications that the medical industry would have you use. Just a thought I felt worth sharing. I’ve heard it also helps other auto-immune problems…
    Thank you for your inspiring video and words! It seems as if you’ve found where God wants you to work!

    • Hi Michele

      That is a sad situation with the home for people with disabilities having so little funding. There needs to be a far greater focus in both government and community on funding for all programs that are for the good of the individuals and society as a whole.

      Even among some of my friends the waste I see of their potential because they are deemed as “vulnerable” people frankly i find apalling. There is too much of a Conservative attitude here in my own province of Ontario of let these people fend for themselves. Even one commented on Linkedin that people on welfare after two years on it in the U.S. should be cut off. I have been praying whether to write on Linkedin and educate others about those who end up on welfare through no fault of their own. In fact, many of my pieces on Linkedin focus on the injustices in society.

      The problem is that no matter how strongly I write only God can change cold hearts. Only He can change even Conservative mindsets of the Darwinian philosophy of survival of the fittest. Our federal Conservative government has gutted so many social programs that were for the societal good such as literacy training. How can people live up to the Conservative or in the case of the U.S. the Republican concept of being independent of being on welfare if they are not given tools such as a good education and work internships?

      Concerning your suggestion about going on a non-dairy diet, I’ve been on one for six months. I have also been on a very strict food elimination diet to determine food allergens. I’m sure without these measures being advised by doctors and the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, I’d probably be dealing with my fourth case of pneumonia since 2007. One of those episodes of pneumonia was in both lungs. I was hospitalized for 10 days and took several months to recover.

      Yet God must have a plan for my life because I’m still here fighting the good fight.

      In the final analysis that’s all any of us can do – fight the good fight doing the best we can in our small corner to be a shining light in someone’s darkness.

      And yes, I do believe I am finding my calling being more revealed as I trust my Lord for the journey with all of its joys and struggles.

      Please let me know how I can be a blessing to you. Say “hello” to your daughter for me. What’s she doing these days?

      Blessings,

      Kevin

  3. Great article! Great insights! I think some people don’t have the advantages that others do, and don’t have the safety net that some with extended families have. Thank you for dispelling some myths about the poor!

    • I was so moved and uplifted by your blog that I am now following it.

      Michele, thanks for those encouraging thoughts. My Lord took me to some painful places in writing this piece. Some of our best writing comes from sharing about those challenging and even hurtful times many of us would far prefer not to remember.

      If the Lord is using me to dispell some of the myths about the poor, then I say thanks be to God for allowing me the opportunity to shine the light of truth on these myths.

      For all I have experienced in my life with its ups and downs and its twists and turns, I still feel so blessed and loved to know God cares for me, as He cares for all of us.

      Michele, I found your writing on your blog to be encouraging in my faith, uplifting to my soul and educational. The piece on formal prayer educated me about the value of the Rosary and its significance to Catholic faith. Formality in prayer can help keep us focused, centered on the thoughts it expresses, as we seek by God’s grace to live out the passion of Christ.

      Your article on novel writing and the excuses we offer in not doing it really reached me. God has used you to examine all the activities I am engaged in. Concerning TV, my wife, Karen, and I, have made an agreement. If there is only garbage on the TV we don’t watch it. We have become very selective about what we watch.

      The greatest gift you have given me through the thoughts you share is to seek with my busy schedule of writing, researching for my M.Th. Missione thesis, singing, songrwiting and being in the choir at my church, is to make much more time for my Lord. I am being called to a more contemplative life of the spirit.

      Your article on novel writing and the excuses we offer in not doing it really reached me. God has used you to examine all the activities I am engaged in. Concerning TV, my wife, Karen, and I, have made an agreement. If there is only garbage on the TV we don’t watch it. We have become very selective about what we watch.

      I’m asking here for something for you to prayerfully consider. If you or anyone you know has theological,counseling, philosophy or books of English literature and poetry they are no longer needing, we would be more than glad to adopt them into our library. I find that reading the online materials bother my eyes after a while. This too would minimize our costs for books for the M.Div program we will be starting at Trinity College in the University of Toronto starting this January. For me it will be the continuation of studies started eight years ago.

      Unfortunately, I had to take a protracted medical leave because of undiagnosed illness. I know that God can use us as He puts us on a divergent calling. Now, that I am a more proper treatment program it is realistic to engage in part-time studies. I don’t want to rush this exciting journey. I might miss out on something valuable by trying to do the program too quickly. How can I call others to a life of balance if I don’t do this in my own life?

      I feel a strong calling to student chaplaincy, spiritual direction and teaching. Please pray for Karen and I as we seek the Lord’s direction for the calling He has on our lives. We rest ourselves in His love and tender mercy.

      Please feel free to give you and your contacts my email address, which is osborne2029@gmail.com

      You would appreciate that my thesis focuses on how the people of L’Arche with developmental challenges go from the perception of being a societal liability, to being a profound blessing of unconditional love.

      In times of retreat at L’Arche I have been refreshed and invigorated in my own life as I have spent time speaking, singing and worshiping with these beautiful creations of God.

      Their founder as you may know is Jean Vanier, the son of a former Governor General of Canada.

      I find that this video from Jean Vanier speaks the most about how the residents of L’Arche ask us all this question. “Do you love me?” I hope and pray the answer for all of us is yes.

      The peace of the Lord be with you.

      Kevin

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