Monday, November 10, 2008

Undeserving Poor

"The woman was livid, pounding her fist on the table. "I wouldn't give a cent to those soup kitchen bums," she declared. 'They spend my tax money on whiskey and cigarettes. They have children just to get bigger welfare checks. They're probably too lazy to get jobs. They don't deserve a free meal.'

Ah, the undeserving poor. How often we've heard those tirades.

But let's pretend for a minute that the woman's accusations are true. Let's say that those who eat at soup kitchens spend their meager checks on booze and drugs instead of food and shelter. Let's agree that they are all offered jobs and refuse them because they are lazy. Let's agree that they only have children because they want more government money.

Would that make them less deserving of help? Any less deserving than we are? It depends on whether you look at it through Wall Street's eyes or Jesus' eyes, I guess.

'We love,' suggests 1 John 4:19, 'because God first loved us.' That love comes through in one of my favorite Hasidic tales. According to the tale, the rabbi of Sassov once gave the last money in his pocket to a man of ill repute. When his disciples objected, he asked, 'Shall I be more finicky than God, who gave it to me?'

None of us deserves what we have. All of us are recipients of an unconditional love, poured out and overflowing.

Creation itself is a gift given without human effort. Who among us deserves another minute of life? Who among us deserves forgiveness for the hurt and harm we have scattered like sand on a seashore? A child's love, the smell of coffee in the morning, a slice of freshly baked bread, a brilliant sunset - everything and everyone is a gift.

Each of us stands before God as a beggar, totally dependent on God's sustaining love. All we are asked to do is to imitate God: to give without judgment or label, to give because we are all 'undeserving poor.'

Daily we receive a torrent, a flood of underserved gifts from the unending waterfall of God's goodness. And daily we are given opportunities to imitate the torrent through acts of kindness and unconditional love."

Mary Lou Kownacki - "A Monk in the Inner City", pp. 133-134...(She is a fabulous Benedictine nun who has spent 40 years in Erie, PA, participating in the lives of the highest % of minority children living in poverty in the U.S.A.)


Jayne said...

Beautiful Roberta... just beautiful. Thanks for sharing this piece.

sue said...

How very true!

Brad said...

Hey, Roberta!
I really like this one. Especially now when the
homeless shelter is starting up. A wonderful in-law of mine, now
dead several years, lived to a ripe old age taking care of himself and of several relatives who indeed were shiftless, lazy, and simply sucked money out of the system. Someone in the family said one day that it was awful for him to pay taxes and give yet more out of pocket to take care of, e.g., an alcoholic chain smoker who had never worked a day in a life of 60 years. He replied that he was extremely grateful always to have had a good job, and to have a decent retirement, and to know that he had never been forced, or chosen, to depend on others.

Interestingly, some of those whom he helped, though they never learned to earn a living, gave back that love in other ways, especially in the last years of his long life. And what that nun sees in the inner city exists right here too, for anybody
who cares.

Keep On Loving! - Brad

laura said...

Sounds like a book I need to read!

Evelyn said...

"Shall I be more finicky than God, who gave it to me?" I do hope I remember those words!
Thank you, Roberta!