A friend recently posted the following story, and I’ve been fretting over it ever since. It’s point is so incomplete:
“I recently asked my neighbors’ little girl what she wanted to be when she grows up. She said she wanted to be President some day. Both of her parents, are liberal Democrats, were standing there, so I asked her, ‘If you were President what would be the first thing you would do?’
“She replied, ‘I’d give food and houses to all the homeless people.’
“Her parents beamed with pride.
“’Wow…what a worthy goal.’ I told her, ‘But you don’t have to wait until you’re President to do that! You can come over to my house and mow the lawn, pull weeds, and sweep my yard, and I’ll pay you $50. Then I’ll take you over to the grocery store where the homeless guy hangs out, and you can give him the $50 to use toward food and a new house.‘
“She thought that over for a few seconds, then she looked me straight in the eye and asked, ’ Why doesn’t the homeless guy come over and do the work, and you can just pay him the $50?‘
“I said, ‘Welcome to Conservatism.’
“Her parents still aren’t speaking to me.”
~source-Mr. Conservative firstname.lastname@example.org ~ POSTED JANUARY 10, 2012
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Actually the girl’s parents weren’t liberals. They were just jerks! That was an easy case.
Now, how about another case another friend shared with me about 2 ½ years ago. She was pastoring a congregation in a Midwestern county seat community, and a parishioner approached her about the situation:
An eight-year-old boy’s father was killed in Iraq, and his mother worked three jobs and kept all bills current. She still couldn’t afford child care, so the child went home after school to an empty house two days a week. (A neighbor “watched” him when she was home). The mother had no health care. She made too much for Medicare and all her jobs were “part time” so she didn’t qualify for any “benefits.”
The mother was mugged in the parking lot of one of the stores where she worked. Her car was stolen (and had not been recovered when I heard the story) and she was hospitalized for almost two weeks. There were no local relatives with whom she could leave the child, and she lost all three of her jobs.
A neighbor took care of the little boy until she got home from the hospital; but, when she returned home she had no job, no food in the house, and rent and utilities were due; and the medical bills would start arriving in her mailbox any day. Given her history of resourcefulness, she’ll probably find more work soon; but there were a couple of broken bones that had to heal first. What was to happen in the interim?
The neighbor called her pastor. Almost all churches have some resources for these things; but (1) most churches are small and declining. Their resources are limited and (2) there is infinitely more need than resources (even if you could cull out the “unde-serving” leaches). Some communities have food pantries. This story took place in a relatively small community, and I don’t know whether there was a food pantry.
The pastor called around to several churches (which is how my friend got involved) and raised about $600. That paid the rent and the most pressing utilities, and bought some groceries. My friend found a woman in her church who would provide free child care, and another member loaned the woman a car. But there still was a utility bill, and she still had a prescription that needed to be filled and the medical bills were pending. And until she gets employment—and then the first pay check—the situation will be continuous.
Now: my stated purpose in this blog site is to listen to both sides of any issue. I’m sorry, but somehow in this case I can’t find a credible side among the conservative clichés about entitlement programs. They’re just not relevant here.
I agree with Thomas Jefferson or Thomas Paine or whoever first said, “That government is best that governs least.” I agree with the poster that says, “Hard work and education will take you further than any government program can ever promise.” In fact, it was that poster, posted on Facebook yesterday, that reminded me of this story. And I agree that there is a “free ride” mentality among some in our culture, and am all for eliminating welfare fraud and every other instance of wasted government spending (which is fodder for yet another blog).
But, unlike the assumptions behind many conservative assertions, this woman didn’t just one day decide, “Hey, there are government programs out there that will take care of me and my kid. I can get a ‘free ride’.” In fact, with Food Stamps and unemployment benefits—and with no income she would qualify for Medicaid—she’d possibly be better off financially if she didn’t work!
I lost contact with my friend when she moved to another congregation in another region shortly after sharing this story with me; so I never heard the eventual outcome of the story. Hopefully the community stepped up and gave her the support she needed and deserved.
What I know is that that woman didn’t choose her situation, and her eight-year-old son certainly didn’t choose his! But she did ch0ose not to apply for government as-sistance. The clichés and the blanket indictment and demonization of any and all who receive such assistance—without consideration of any mitigating circumstances—just don’t work in this case. And there are thousands—maybe tens or even hundreds of thousands or more—of similar cases.
Jesus said, “The poor will always be with you” (Matthew 26:11). Is that because the need will always exceed our resources? Or is it because the need will always exceed our willingness to respond? Or is it because there always will be people who want a “free ride”? Could it be all of the above? Whatever the reason, what is the solution?
So, my conservative friends, I’m open to suggestions. Although this case is 2 1/2 years gone and surely resolved by now, there are (and likely always will be) similar cases that need to be addressed. How can this woman be helped until she can get back on track—without the government being involved?
If anybody can come up with a credible way of helping this woman and her son—and the thousands (Hundreds of thousands? Millions?) in similar circumstances—without government involvement, I’ll vote for him/her!