We all do our best to meet the needs around us. The magnitude of need in this world is so great. We do not have to go far to find those in need of our help. You have a family member, friend, colleague or neighbour who is out of work. Someone you know is having their home foreclosed on. A friend needs an operation that is not covered by their government, and so that person is left with insurmountable debt running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Need is everywhere we look and blaring at us through TV, radio and the newspapers we read. No matter how hard you try to get an escape from it you see it every day.
The question then becomes this. What can we do about the need we see around us? How can we be the just society that former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau called for? Do we heed the message of history that comes to us from President John F. Kennedy as he gives his inaugural address?
“Now the trumpet summons us again–not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need–not as a call to battle, though embattled we are– but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation”–a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself.”
We have a war to fight where we live and in the lives of 1.4 billion people who live in poverty, whose daily war is their struggle to survive. Poverty knows no nationality. Its darkness falls on the mother in Ontario who feels guilty about having an apple and a sandwich and so sacrifices having the sandwich so her child can eat. It eats away at the dignity of those starving in Africa, the Philippines, Asia, Russia, South America, Australia, and throughout the United Kingdom, Europe, on all continents and in all countries. Poverty keeps its victims in an unrelenting torture where the wounds are internal, not visibly on display.
Poverty is an abuse to the soul. It leaves permanent scars that will not heal even when help should come, for it so often comes too late when all hope is gone, and suicide becomes the far more desirable option than a life of unrelenting pain and misery.
Be thankful for the caring family and friends who are there for you. They are to be treasured in a world of growing self-absorption and materialism.
The dream that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Junior had of a world where everyone is treated as being equal, where everyone gets an equal opportunity to have a quality life, a good job, a good education, still beats in the hearts of those who have not forgotten what he stood for and believed in.
Government and community need to work together so that no one is denied the fundamental right of the dignity that they deserve. Something has gone seriously wrong in our society when the focus is on the bottom line and not on the people we should be reaching out to, the people we should be giving that strong caring hand up that leads to hope.
There needs to be national policies implemented that would deny NO ONE the vocational help they need. If we focused more on using the talents people have to mentor others so they can escape poverty,.think of how many people we could give valuable training to in all career fields, that would give them marketable skills. There is an untapped resource in the people in your community. For example, a business manager could take time to mentor another person who wants a career in business. A teacher could train another person how to be a teacher that with a forward thinking school principal, could have that person working as a teacher. This training then could be supplemented with further distance education where so much college credit would be awarded for on the job training. A social worker could train another person to be a social worker supplemented with distance education. It is simply taking the idea of co-op education and expanding upon it across all career fields. This way the person being mentored has an education that includes both theory and the practical application of it.
In family services work I have seen the dejected faces of poverty. I have looked into those sad faces. They cannot meet your eyes because they feel ashamed that they are there needing your help for three days of food, for someone to listen to them, to hear their story. There is no light in their eyes. Their eyes have no hope left in them.
The critics say that the poor through their own lack of effort are poor. I have heard people say if those “lazy bums” would just take any job they would no longer be poor.
Looking at this whole problem of poverty objectively and logically there is a more central problem. When one is always focused on being poor it affects their ability to make positive choices that could free them from their poverty.
“The latest research to show this was published in August 2013 in the journal Science and is titled “Poverty Impedes Cognitive Function.” The gist of the argument is, “Poverty captures attention, triggers intrusive thoughts, and reduces cognitive resources.” In other words, the more preoccupied one is with troubles, the less able one is to muster the “cognitive resources” necessary to rationally “guide choice and action.”1
Think about that quote. If one spends every waking moment thinking about their poverty it eats away at the individual like an advancing cancer, thwarting their efforts to change their situation. If you were poor think of how that would play on your mind. You would feel like a failure. No matter how hard you tried to get work and were unable to, that cloud always hangs over your head, that if you tried just a little harder you could get work. Many among the people you know are looking for work. When you see someone in that situation, could you if you are not already take some time to help them by introducing them to one or a few people who could help them? You could be that open door that leads to them getting work again.
I could cite statistics about the number of poor people there are in this world. Statistics though do not tell the human tragedy of lives I have seen ruined by poverty. I have listened to their stories of how they have worked so hard to lessen and remove their dependence on social assistance. They have fine minds that could be put to work. Many have a good education, but all they get are platitudes, a pat on the back for trying their best, confined to poverty that has a life -time sentence. Why? I think it is because too many people see those with challenges as handicaps. They perceive them as weak, needing to be cared for. For them to have gone through the many put downs, the attacks on their dignity, dealing with people who abuse the authority entrusted to them, the abuse both physical and emotional I have seen, they have to have an inner strength we should find inspiring..
Yes, in some instances there are those who cheat the system. There will always be the con artists. I know. I blacklisted one of them who used his grocery voucher to buy booze. Sadly, it is the cheaters, of those who play the system, who are spot lighted by policy makers and politicians with their own sell-serving agenda. I do believe there are still many political, community, church leaders and those in social services who do care. They are unsung heroes who work with all their heart and soul for the people they strive to help.
I am only one voice of many calling for a revolution of caring. I do not profess to have all the answers. I have some ideas if I could get an opportunity to sit down with leaders in community, church and government to share them. All I seem to get is closed doors. Perhaps, one of you will open one for me.
The call to each of us to be a caring and just society should not just be as we enter the Christmas season. Caring should happen every day. Need occurs every season of the year.
I leave you with this thought.
““Love does not cost anything. Kind words and deeds do not cost anything. The real beauty of the world is equal for everyone to see. It was given by God equally to all, without restrictions.
Everyone, was given a beautiful vehicle in which to express love to others. Feelings are free to express and give to ourselves and each other through our willingness to give and care.
What is complicated about this… Why have we made others feel they have to climb mountains and swim oceans in order to make a difference.
All we need to understand my friends, is that human life was given equally to us all, not partially but in totality.
The sun was given to all. It does not shine on the few. So, just has nature is indifferent to our station or situation, we need to know that we are all equal. We need to focus on the things that are constant and not place our values on things that can be blown away with the next, great, wind.
Value life in what ever house it dwells. For when it comes time that we are all stripped to bare bones before the divine and facing eternity, we will understand that the only law we were meant to follow, was to love ourselves and each other. Nothing more…nothing less.”
― Carla Jo Masterson
These are some of my thoughts on how all of us doing what we can in our communities can build a more caring society. I am open to reading your thoughts on what improvements you think need to happen to foster the growth of more caring and understanding communities. It only takes a spark to light a candle, to ignite a revolution of caring. Will you be that spark? I hope so. Hurting lives being dragged down into prisons of despair need you. They really need you. I pray you will answer the call to serve wherever God calls you to be a shining light in the darkness of people’s lives.
Dr. (Hons.) Kevin Osborne,B.Th. with honours, D.D., D.Sc., Diplomate in Creative Ministry is a Certified Christian Counsellor training to be a Christian psychotherapist with St. James the Elder Theological Seminary. He is a member of The Word Guild, a Christian writer’s group in Canada.