Sunday, January 7, 2007

Final Thoughts on Poverty

As promised, a couple of success stories from my days at my old school. The two poorest kids I knew were Odori and Antwan. I coached them both; coincidentally, both ran the 2-mile. Maybe that is significant, because a good work ethic and generally positive behaviors correlate rather strongly with distance runners. (Sprinters are usually the opposite—I was a sprinter.) Odori’s family was featured on a local TV station one Christmas as a family in need to “adopt.” On the kids’ Christmas list for their mom was a working fridge. I used to give Antwan a ride home from practice, as he had no other way to get home; his home was literally across the street from a crack house. Both took advantage of the opportunities provided by a free public education. Odori became one of my team captains, made good grades, and joined the US Marine Corps after graduation. Antwan excelled in the classroom, graduated at the top of his class, and won a scholarship to a local college. His goal: to be an elementary school teacher. I wish I knew, as Paul Harvey would say, “the rest of the story,” but I have lost track of both of them. But when last I saw them, each had, at least potentially, changed their family tree.

Now admittedly, these young men were (and are) exceptional. And some options (like the Marines) look a bit different now than then—the old, “join the military, learn a trade” sales pitch has taken a bit of a back-seat lately to actual warfare. But it CAN BE DONE. I would even venture to say that, in general, any American kid, even today, can choose to join the middle class.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. Many don’t even know how to begin to make that choice. Many will get a lot of resistance from bad role models, and even from the programming of society in general. Human nature being what it is (fallen and sinful), it should come as no surprise that it’s easier to be lazy and make excuses than to charge out into an uphill battle against the status quo.

So what about those who “choose” (actively, or by default) to keep on doing the things that keep them poor? I’m afraid there is no program that “we” can design that will solve that problem. Jesus did say, “the poor you will always have with you.” And therefore, we will always have the responsibility of charity. And that includes giving to those who really don’t “deserve” our help. That’s not natural, and of course it grates on us. It grates on me. But fortunately, I have an example Who is supernatural. God wants us to give, and not just for the sake of those who receive. Giving makes us more like God, who is himself a Giver of gifts to those who do not merit them.

For me at least, that means I’ll keep on voting for things I think actually work, and against those that I think are economically foolish or do more long-term harm than good. But at the same time, I’m going to keep on giving, and hopefully maintain an attitude of Christian charity, even at tax-time.

1 comment:

Roadkillguam said...

I just read all of your Blogs and we're glad to have you back in YFF. Your open personality and enjoyable conversations have kept me coming back to YFF, even though I may not be as young as most in the class.