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They won’t make the top TV news story. You seldom see their problems on the front page. They are not a major priority of political parties but should be. Their issues will not decide who wins an election, but they should. All kinds of promises are made to them that are never kept. They are the poor. They are the sick. They are those with mental illness, physical and/or developmental challenges.
Who speaks for them? Who fights for them? In a true democracy we would say that the government speaks for them. Democracy means the people rule. The people have both an individual and collective say in the way that government works. The government is supposed to work for the people. That is not happening as much as it should. There are politicians and those in community, who are working hard to speak for these people. Sadly, there are also those who believe that the poor are weak or lacking in moral character. Yet, these are some of the very people who think nothing of spending thousands of dollars for a meal, because they have never known what it means to miss a meal or miss many days of meals. They have never known the agonizing pain of malnutrition. They have never had to feel guilty or humiliated like a white, middle-aged, unemployed man with diabetes in Ontario, who can’t afford his insulin. They have never had to sacrifice any meals so their children could eat. They have never had to feel the suffering or humiliation caused by having to pee oneself, because the ‘accessible’ washroom is down a long flight of stairs.
President Lyndon B. Johnson said, “...somehow you never forget what poverty and hatred can do when you see its scars on the hopeful face of a young child.” 1 I have seen those eyes. I know what President Johnson is talking about. There is no face like it. When those two eyes look back at you, there are no words you can say that will bring comfort. There is only the answer that comes in the silence that says, “I care. I will do all I can to help.” But when I have looked into those eyes, I have asked, as I know many of you have, this one soul-searching question– Why?
It is all too easy and convenient to say, as I have heard some say to people begging on the street, “Get a job you lazy bum!” There will always be those who cheat the system. In an imperfect world we will always have those who lie and steal. Instead of dwelling, though, on the negatives, let us all seek to see the positives.
We all need to do our part to speak not only for our issues but those of others. That is what community is all about. It is being that strong and caring hand up. It is being hope for those whose hope is dying or is dead.
We won’t solve all of the problems in our communities or in society. But we can solve problems in our own circle. As our circle overlaps with the circles of other people, we can work together to come up with bigger solutions for larger problems.
You have been given beautiful minds and caring hearts by God to speak for those, who have become so worn down by the injustices in their lives, they no longer have the energy or health to speak for themselves. Be a voice for the hurting, sick and poor. They are losing hope. For some, hope is dead.
Who knows? Perhaps, as you speak for them, ‘those people’ will speak for you.
Kevin and Karen Osborne are Christian pastoral counsellors and psychotherapists. We have started You Can Hope Again Counselling. Karen enjoys doing cross-stitch while I like writing and singing songs. Karen makes me laugh when she sings the kitty bed-time song saying, “It’s that time. It’s the bestest kitty time of the day!” Kevin enjoys teasing the kitties and making them do kitty dances with music. Their kitty, Catherine, loves it when kitty daddeh sings All Creatures Great and Small. Kevin likes doing impressions. He tells children’s stories using his hand puppet, Dr. Teddy.