Thoughts on poverty and homelessness in the U.S.A.

Posts tagged ‘empathy and compassion’

A Child of the Poor…

“Helpless and hungry, lowly he lies, wrapped in the chill of midwinter…

born into poverty’s embrace…

Who is this who lives with the lowly,                sharing their sorrows,                    knowing their hunger?

This is Christ,                       revealed to the world in the eyes of a child,                       a child of the poor…”

————————Scott Soper

I went to church last night, Christmas Eve, flipped through the hymnal and found this song. I memorized the key lyrics and the song’s composer ’cause it inspired yet another blog entry. It reminded me of what Christianity used to be, as I’d learned it anyhow, until recently. Christianity, as I understood it, was all about helping the poor and not striving for money or material things because those things are of this earth, physical, not spiritual, not eternal. As Christians, we are to strive to cultivate and enrich our spirit but certainly not our bank accounts. In fact, we should be ready to give away everything, including the shirt off of our backs, to help those in need. This, my friend, is the Christianity I grew up with.

Sayonara, peace and love. Christianity, like everything else in our society, has become mean.

(I’ve had trouble embedding the videos below,  so I’ll just include the links for your viewing pleasure…)

And look, another blogger beat me to this at:

What happened? Seems Christianity itself has become, in a sense, the anti-Christ, the very thing that attacks everything this Christ stood for:  turning the other cheek, i.e., nonviolence, kindness, generosity, compassion, rejecting greed and materialism, embracing humility and poverty.

This new “Christianity” says that greed is good and that money and material things are given by God to His followers… Huh? Modern times!


Read the Bible, people. The Christian Bible does not advocate the obtaining of money and material things. It does not. Does not. Does not.

Christ is born “a child of the poor.” He is born into poverty wrapped in nothing but the “midwinter chill.”

In fact, Jesus and his family–mother Mary, father Joseph–were homeless. There was no room at the inn, so they stayed in a stable where animals were kept. Hmm… Where were the trespassing laws to arrest these occupiers? How would you have treated this homeless family of three had you been alive to witness Jesus’s birth? Would you, like Bill O’Reilly and his anti-Christ wannabe/pseudo Christian friends, give help to the child but ignore the parents, treating them with scorn? Would you accuse Mary and Joseph of being lazy, irresponsible and not wanting to work? Why did they choose to have a child when they were so low on money? Shouldn’t they have put off marriage and children until their financial situation improved?

Yes, this child of the poor, this hungry, helpless, lowly, homeless child was none-other than Jesus Himself. The Messiah Himself, revealed to the world as a poor homeless child. I guess we’ll never know what great gifts an impoverished person might be able to offer if he were allowed to live up to his greatest potential. And I think this was Jesus’s biggest message of all.  And I believe this is why he was killed.  His very existence as a man who was not born into wealth, not the son of a king (by worldly standards) but who was being treated like a king and followed by a host of admirers, posed a huge threat to the wealthy and powerful who wanted the people to follow THEM, not this Jesus upstart.

“Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth…”  Matthew 5:5

Hmm… What would Bill O’Reilly say? He’d probably say, “Get out of my stable, ya’ no-good crackheads. Get a job! You shouldn’t be havin’ kids if you can’t afford ’em!”  Then he’d call the police, have Mary and Joseph put in jail and Jesus placed in a foster home. In fact, Bill O’Reilly and his pals would be the first to demand Jesus be sentenced to death for his rebellious ways.

Do you think Jesus and his family were lazy drug addicts who lacked intelligence or practiced poor planning, etc.?   Some people ask, “What would Jesus do?” Now, I am asking you, my dear, darlin’ reader, what would you do if you encountered Jesus right here and now–long hair, sandals, poverty and all.

Because, as we all know, Jesus was poor.  Someone even wrote a song about it…

Even a bouncing ball needs a little help now and again…

Ever hold a ball in your hand then let it drop?  What does it do?

It bounces.

And bounces.

It continues to bounce for a little while.

But if you just let it go and don’t give it any more assistance, the bounces will gradually get smaller and smaller, and fewer and farther in between. Eventually, the ball will stop bouncing altogether. It might roll around the floor for a bit till it stops or hits a wall and is forced to stop. But it won’t bounce again until you pick it up and drop it again. (That’s if you don’t intervene and just let the ball bounce on its own, of course.)

But if you drop it then keep tapping it with your hand, you can keep it bouncing, maybe even get it to bounce higher, higher and higher! That ball reacts to your touch and depending on how hard you touch it, it could touch the ceiling, it could rise so high! If you hit it hard enough, your energy might propel it out the window.

Even inanimate objects require some attention.

Do you ever find yourself getting angry at that lazy, dependent ball that can’t bounce on its own, that keeps needing your help to bounce?

“Hey you, get your own bounce!”

Yep, inanimate objects are lazy. They don’t want to work and often refuse to move unless prodded by a human to move. That’s right, you’ve heard/read it here first. Inanimate objects are codependent socialists! Why, some of them are outright communists.  Think of the old-fashioned toilet that won’t flush itself, for example. The door that requires you to open and shut it. Or the road that doesn’t build itself, requiring a large group of human beings (collectivism!) to come together, cooperate and work as a team to build it. Yep, toilets, doors and roads are only some of the seemingly ordinary inanimate objects that support socialism. Don’t be fooled!

Sometimes even living creatures are commies. They may not talk about it, but it’s obvious from their behavior. What of the house plant that requires you to water it from time to time? Sure, if it were outdoors it might absorb water from the rain (still a form of mooching, if you ask me.) But there you are fostering dependency by keeping it in your house and taking responsibility for watering it. Why? If you were a truly self-sufficient American, truly devoted to ending communism and socialism around the world, truly patriotic and loyal to your country, you’d get rid of that houseplant (and any pets and children mooching off of you) immediately. Pick yourself up by your bootstraps and tell them to do the same! Show us how to do it by setting an example. As Chris Gardner wrote, “The calvary ain’t comin’!”  Nope, no one’s coming to help you. You’ve got to do it all yourself because that’s what life is all about–self reliance!

So I urge you now to not be a hypocrite. Stop supporting the nanny state, codependency, communism and socialism. Stop helping others and, yes, that includes the houseplant. Keep it outdoors, let it soak up the sunlight and mooch off the rain water. Heck, it should just go out and get a bloody job already! What? “They’re not hiring house plants,” you say? Nonsense. Plants give off oxygen, dumbass. And everyone needs oxygen. Put those plants to work. Lots of people will pay for air. If you bring it, they’ll come.

Whew. Sorry for the rant. But honestly, I’m just so tired of the hypocrisy. We owe it to ourselves as Americans to be as selfish, egotistical and unhelpful to others as possible (again, that includes inanimate objects, pets, children, lovers, etc.)


(We need another drum roll, please. Oh wait. Dear, sweet, gentle reader, you’ll have to beat on those drums yourself. I certainly won’t do it for you. Beat those drums silly ’cause we need a drumroll! Or you can just imagine it. Can you hear the drum rolling in your head?)

Because otherwise…

Otherwise, we’ll be advocating socialism. Or worse, communism. Or equally worse, collectivism. And we absolutely don’t want that! Look how well selfishness and greed have solved the problems of billions of people around the globe…people from places like…



Okay, I’ll think of a country in a moment, but they’re out there. The countries thriving and living strong due to selfishness and greed are out there, and, eventually, I’ll be able to name them. Aren’t you listening to conspiracy theorists these days? We’ve all got to turn into selfish so-and-so’s immediately before it’s too late. If someone (or some thing) in your life seems to need your help, don’t be fooled. Explain to them that their problems are all their own fault, that they need to clean up their attitude, and you are not going to lift a finger to help them by enabling their laziness. Listen, help someone and they won’t help themselves. Refuse to help someone and they’ll… well, maybe they’ll rob a store for the money or maybe they’ll break into a bank or check into a homeless shelter, or maybe they’ll die because they didn’t get the help they needed, or maybe they’ll sink into depression and start drinking, or maybe the stress will cause them to develop heart disease, multiple sclerosis or cancer, but at least you won’t be advocating ‘socialism’ by helping them because socialism is very, very dangerous. At least you won’t be assisting their laziness. Besides, in attempting to rob a bank, some poor slob might learn skills, including independence and initiative, that might make them more employable once they’re released from jail. (No, I’m not advocating criminal activity, robbery, or theft. I don’t work for corporate America or the government, so why would I advocate such behavior? I’m simply stating what employers, sadly, are seeking from potential employees.) Most employers today look for “money-motivated” types, so being able to risk all for money is in vogue. Socialism is, on the other hand, helping other people. That’s what the word means. Don’t let those dang “liberals” convince you otherwise. And if you do something stupid like help someone in need then find out they weren’t a very nice person in the first place, well…

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

And my memory travels back to a distant time when I was younger and had more faith in people. Perhaps now I’ve become more cynical and impatient. (Ya’ think? Though even in those days I was told I didn’t trust people enough, just to give you an idea of how far down the rabbit hole of mistrust and misanthropy I am right now.) Anyhow, I had moved to a new city and was looking for a new street. I got off the subway and looked around, but this small, suburban street was nowhere to be found. I asked a passerby about this elusive street. Do you know where XXX Street is? And I remember her answer to this day, as it will never leave my mind. It was just so typically American.

“I don’t like to encourage dependency!” she gruffly announced. Then she shoved a map in my face and told me to find the street myself. I looked at the map, dumbfounded. I didn’t know the area at all. In fact, it was the first time in my entire life I’d even been in that city, much less that neighborhood. I spent a few minutes searching the map, but I didn’t even know where I was located on the map much less the street I was searching for, so I didn’t even know where to look. I was very confused. After a few minutes of watching me look over the map, the woman became exasperated. “Oh!” She abruptly grabbed the map away from me. (It was her map, after all, and these days you can’t be too careful. Lots of map-theives out there looking for a handout, looking for someone to “help” them, the lazy bums…)

She then motioned toward the street with her hand. She knew exactly where it was but hadn’t wanted to tell me until now. She just didn’t have the patience for someone as “dependent” and “needy” as I was anymore. So she told me to turn right, head down that major street then turn right again and I’d see the small street I was looking for. She acted as though I was the dumbest person on earth and that I had a lot of nerve asking her for help. Why couldn’t I just pick myself up by my bootstraps and find the street myself?

I followed her instructions and found the street I was looking for. At the time, I was very young, so I didn’t judge the woman too much. I was puzzled by her resistance to just quickly direct me to the street. Honestly, it would have only taken a minute for her to just motion with her hand and say, “It’s just over there.” I was literally only a five-minute walk away from that street. So what exactly was the problem?

It seemed she felt strongly that she had to make a point that everyone should be independent and take care of herself without asking other people for help or directions. She felt she was perpetuating some sort of cycle of dependency by helping me find a street!

And yet if she had taken a simple moment out of her time (less than three minutes, really) to just send me in the right direction, I would have continued on my way and not taken up more of her (or my own) time. She prolonged the time it took for me to find my street by insisting I find it myself when I could not. She had knowledge but wouldn’t share it. (Nothing for free here in the USSA!)

Her resistance to helping me slowed everything down, impeded progress for both her and me. It took me longer to get to my destination and made the trip frustrating. If I hadn’t been able to find the street, I might have given up and just turned around and gone home. Simply put, it would have been much more efficient if she’d just pointed me in the right direction in the first place instead of wasting everyone’s time by attempting to make senseless argument about independence. So we’re not allowed as humans to get lost and ask for directions? That makes us lazy and dependent?


Look, when we need help, we need it right away at the time it is needed AND we need the appropriate type of help. When other people resist us, judge us, assume we’re to blame, etc., that just creates a distraction that slows us down, sometimes discourages us altogether. This, my friend, is the reason why some people stay poor, remain on welfare, remain homeless, etc. Helping people empowers them, gives them the safety net they need so they can take the risk to jump out into the world and pursue their dreams. Attacking them for needing help when they actually need it just frustrates people, makes them feel helpless and hopeless and, quite often, causes them to give up.

Yes, sometimes we need help. Quite often, we need help. Almost always we need help from other people. And when we don’t get help when we need it and we can’t solve our problems without help, we can deteriorate, sink into depression, get overwhelmed and overburdened, develop health problems, behavioral problems, etc. (Poor people don’t live as long as rich people for this reason.)

That is what happens to poor people, to people who collect welfare for long periods of time, to homeless people, etc. No one wants to be poor or homeless. No one. People get stuck–not because they’re “dependent on handouts.” They get stuck because they aren’t getting the help they need when they need it. American “handouts” are half-assed, incomplete forms of shoving a map in a lost person’s face and telling a person to find the street herself.

Who’s helping the poor here in the USA?  Who’s really helping the poor? No one. I’m telling you right now. NO ONE. When someone’s lost and you send them in the right direction, you’re not perpetuating dependency. You’re being a kind, decent human being. You’re allowing progress. Let that person continue on their journey while you continue on yours. When one needs help from the other, the other will be ready because we share this world. We have to share. Now, I’m not speaking to kindergarteners here, am I? We’re all adults, no? Didn’t your parents/teachers/surrounding adults teach you this when you were five? We have to share because as individuals we can’t do it all alone. It isn’t physically possible.

We’re all connected. We all depend on one another, always. That will never change. Should you choose to leave society and live alone on a deserted island, you’ll still be dependent on nature and the changes taking place within it. You’ll be interacting with storms, crops that refuse to grow, soil that needs to be left alone for a while, animals that are hungry and want your food–or perhaps you as their food. Sorry, but rugged selfishness doesn’t work. Never has. Never will. Being kind spreads more kindness. Someday, it will come back to you and you’ll find that someone somewhere is kind to you when you most needed it. It’s wonderful, really, to live in a world in which people are kind to each other. And we could have that world, even here in the USA.

BTW, a note about the above videos:

The first video was produced by a former lawyer and homeless woman who creates provocative and intriguing political commentary, and has continued to create these videos even while she was homeless. Amazing. Just because you aren’t making money doesn’t mean you aren’t contributing to society. This woman is a perfect example of that. Making videos takes a lot of work.

The second video impressed me because this priest exuded kindness and peace. What he said about us breaking down the walls between us was beautiful and poetic. He honestly means what he says. He honestly cares.

The last videos of the young college students made me cry. “I’ve got a pretty good life,” the young man begins (and the tears began to flow–from my eyes, of course, not his.) So often I lament the lack of empathy and compassion in our spiritually impoverished nation, then someone like this guy comes along who causes me to have faith in the human race again. (Well, for a moment…)

I wish we could support the above video makers. Turn off the TV set and watch videos like the above, movies made from the heart and soul by people who are passionate about something important. Frankly, I found the above videos more entertaining and enlightening than anything I could watch on TV. (But then again, I don’t watch TV anymore, so I guess I’m not all familiar with the *$%#* gobbledygook screening on the idiot box these days. “Junky off!” as my granddad used to say.)

So there.

Water Story:..:Sweating the small stuff is just a waste of water

Went to buy a sandwich today and thought I’d do something a little radical.

“May I have a glass of water while I’m waiting?” I asked.  Yep, I asked for a FREE glass of water.  I wasn’t paying for it, not requesting the bottled variety, and I don’t drink soda pop.  I just wanted real water–from the tap.  And I did NOT want to pay for it.

I felt a twinge of apprehension.  Would the cashier cringe, throw me a “look,” glare at me from the bottom up to view my attire and thus determine my socioeconomic status, inform me I must pay 15 cents for the cup, or just attempt to sell me something more expensive?

I waited.

To my surprise, the cashier simply rung up my order for a free cup of water then gave me an empty cup.  No questions were asked.  No intimidating stare.  I felt redeemed. Relieved. Grateful. Thirsty.  I grabbed the cup, filled it up with water, and took a sip of that precious resource that someday will only be available to a wealthy few.  (Lots of political ramifications here.  How hard will any of us be able to fight for our rights, to express our opinions, to participate in the management of this country, to care about anything or anyone greater than ourselves, when we no longer have access to that basic resource–water?  When we are painfully thirsty and all of our time and energy is spent up each day by our efforts to just quench our thirst?)

Being the introspective person I am, I questioned my apprehension.  Why did I hesitate to ask for the glass of water?  Why the (albeit tiny) spark of worry associated with a request for a mere glass of water?  The cashier would either say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’  So what is my problem?

And I am reminded of previously requested waters.  The waters of times past.  Taco Bell cashiers who told me I would have to pay for the water, even after I’d purchased food.  And efforts of other cashiers to encourage me to pay for water.  “We have bottled water.  Would you like that instead?” The embarrassment of being watched suspiciously by an employee as I filled the see-through cup (made see-through so that staff would notice if you poured soda pop you didn’t pay for into the cup instead of the water you’d claimed you wanted).

Oh yes, and most interesting water gathering experience of all (and this is fodder for a future blog):  the time when I asked for a glass of water and was refused it because the cashier was worried I might give it to a homeless man.  “Are you going to give that glass of water to that homeless man?” she asked critically. Seemed she didn’t want that poor man to have a glass of water–even if I, a customer who had purchased food from her store, wanted to give my own glass of water to him.  (Again, that story will be expanded upon in a future blog…)

Why so much fuss over water?

Is giving a cup of water to a paying customer such a big loss?  What if I weren’t a customer?  What if I swaggered into that fast-food joint and asked for a glass of water just because…just because I was human and thirsty…just because we humans can live longer without food than we can without water…just because I’m one of your brothers or sisters on this planet and I’m just in need of a little refreshment…

Okay, so does giving a free glass of water cost companies a tremendous amount of money?  I mean, seriously, if someone “stole” that little plastic cup and filled it up with soda pop they didn’t pay for would Taco Bell go out of business?  Doesn’t it cost more money to hire an employee to stand by the soda pop machine and watch customers to make sure they are pouring water and not soda pop into their little plastic cups?  Don’t the surveillance cameras hung all over the ceilings of these restaurants cost a pretty penny?  How much is all this security, this fear of being “taken advantage of,” of “being ripped off,” costing us?  Financially?  Socially?  Spiritually?

I’ve seen restaurants charge a fee, yes A FEE, to allow use of their restrooms.  Any of us who lives or works in a major city knows how hard it is to find a public bathroom in a major urban area these days.  Yet we all need to use the bathroom several times a day.  All of us–rich and poor.  And most of us don’t stay home all day.  Most of us go out and while we are out we are going to need, sooner or later, the use of such facilities.  Yet we are creating a society that requires we pay for that, to pay a fee to do what we must do as humans, to fulfill our human needs.  My question is this:


Are stores and restaurants really losing money by allowing people to use their bathrooms and drink their tap water for free?  At this time, we are seeing the greatest division between the rich and the poor than has ever been seen in the U.S. in recent history.  And the rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer.  Yet we are also seeing basic resources and services diminishing as the rich cry poverty, claiming they just can’t afford to give.  They can’t afford to pay taxes (thus giving back to their community), they can’t afford to pay their employees decent living wages, they can’t afford to provide benefits to their employees, and they can’t even afford to give a glass of water or a free trip to a restroom to people who live and work in their communities.  (Then they claim that if we raise their taxes, they’ll stop hiring employees but they’re doing that anyway–outsourcing labor to third-world countries and downsizing by requiring more work from fewer employees and at smaller wages.  So whom do they think they’re kidding?  I’m not so hungry and thirsty right now (not yet) that I’ve lost my ability to think and reason.)

Greed really has broken through the glass ceiling and hit an all-time high.  I never thought I’d see the day when it would become practically illegal to be human, when we’d have to feel shame and embarrassment for asking another human being for anything, even a mere cup of water.  Yes, I am referring to the need for a glass of water and to go to the bathroom–often at inopportune moments–as “human” needs.

It seems that to ask anyone for anything these days is just an inappropriate thing to do.  Heaven forbid you are walking down a busy street and suddenly find that you must need to…uh…well, pee. The condition gets worse as you mosey on down the street and yet you discover that no one–no one!–will allow you to legally pee in their premises unless you have some money to spend.

It’s getting awfully expensive to be a human being these days.  And I just wonder how does this serve us?  I mean, is this really the way we want to conduct business?  Why are we “sweating the small stuff”?  Why are we counting the water cups and monitoring how many free glasses of water were given away in a day when there are more serious matters at hand–like whether or not you are loved and respected by members of your community, or whether or not you are contributing to that community in such a way that makes it a better (not worse) place to be…

Okay, I’m going off on a tangent here.  But you know, we as a people create the society we live in.  Do we really want to get stressed out over little things like water?  Give the guy the water already.  Let the lady use the “non-public” restroom.  Show a  little humanity, America.  You used to back in the 1930s during the Great Depression.

I have faith in you.  I know you can bring back empathy and compassion–even in the United States.  Come on America, let’s start thinking as humans (not robots) again.  And let’s start thinking about giving instead of worrying about what we can get out of every interaction.

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