Posted tagged ‘poverty’

The Sacrifice of Second Helpings

July 7, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          July 7, 2017

                               

I just finished reading Herbert Hoover: A Life by Glenn Jeansonne. An excellent book about a man who usually has become the scapegoat for the Great Depression. What I discovered about Hoover, however, is that he helped feed an estimated 83 million people, was responsible for the delivery of nearly 34 metric tons of food, clothing, and medicine to those endangered by famine and pestilence in Europe and Asia, and was known as “The Great Humanitarian.”

One of the ways he provided food to those in Europe who were starving was by convincing Americans to cut down on the portions of food that THEY were eating…even before The United States got involved in World War 1. Hoover convinced Americans to curtail their consumption of sugar, cease eating bacon and white flour, raise home gardens, and…clean their plates! Twenty million Americans signed pledge cards to abide by these guidelines and were given a sticker for their window indicating their vow to conserve.

Clergy were asked to deliver sermons that emphasized the serious nature of conservation. The term “Hooverizing” became the word that was used to describe the emphases of conserving, and Hoover and his wife Lou modeled conservation in their own home.

The nationwide effort helped feed the Allied troops and hungry European children. It was a simple solution: If we commit to eating what we need, not what we want, the excess…the second helpings!…could go to help feed others.

Amazing! American citizens saw and felt the responsibility to help the plight of others by not thinking of themselves first! The sacrifice of second helpings!

I would say such sacrifice today is only seen in pockets of our country. Little anomalies from what is the norm. The anticipated standard is consumption. We strive for more…more money, more free time, more house, more cable channels, more food in the freezer, more peace and quiet, more pairs of shoes. To sacrifice my excess for the helping of the common good is way beyond our philosophies of life. The bumper sticker, seen more and more these days slapped on the back of BMW’s and big boy trucks, that says “The one who dies with the most toys wins!”…that hints at the core of our life purpose. Most of us don’t want to openly admit that but there is truth at its center.

Of course, there is the danger of becoming arrogantly pious in the midst of sacrifice. It’s the perversion of sacrifice that is often seen in the church, a changing of something good into simply another way to judge who is really, really  spiritual and who is not as spiritual.

What would it look like today to see a mass of people sacrifice for the benefit of others? I’m talking about ongoing sacrifice, not just momentary inconvenience. What would it take for people to “buy in” to a cause that is not just a short sprint but a marathon struggle? What national or world crisis needs to happen for “Hooverizing” to re-emerge like a benevolent tsunami wave?

 

Seventh Grade Social Responsibility

April 19, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            April 19, 2017

                                 

In my substitute teaching experiences I’ve recently been teaching in the “Portable Village”, a series of four classrooms outside of Timberview Middle School in Colorado Springs. I’ve worked my way down the classroom line, starting with math last week and following it up the next day with science, and then teaching social studies yesterday, and in line to finish the classroom course with Language Arts next Tuesday.

The Social Studies class I taught yesterday is the same class I did the January long-term substitute position for. I’ve gotten to know these 125 students of “Portable Village”, and enjoy them immensely!

Yesterday my assignment was to show part of a video that dealt with world poverty and possible solutions to it. In the midst of the video I was to stop and get into some discussion about our understanding of what poverty is and looks like. All four classes I taught had incredible discussions. (It also looked impressive when the assistant principal walked in and the class was quietly engaged in the discussion. What a miracle! A classroom of seventh graders quiet for a substitute teacher!)

All of the students were aware of poverty, locally and worldwide. A few of them had encountered poverty first-hand through church mission trips to distant lands, and one student who had recently moved to Colorado Springs from Uganda had experienced poverty first-hand in his family. Hopefully he will teach his classmates about the effects and struggles of poverty.

The struggle I sensed in the midst of these students is the “tipping point”…knowing about the issue and being concerned about it compared to knowing about it and being committed to being a part of the solution of it! What will cause them to tip to the side of commitment?

Unfortunately, the older generations of our society have frequently modeled behavior and attitudes that communicate life purposes of accumulation and being self-absorbed. We are elated to be in America, and separated geographically and life style-wise from the poverty of the world. I sit on my Starbucks stool as I write this, recognizing that the two dollar cup of coffee I’m sipping costs more than a vast number of people in the world will have to feed their families with today. A few minutes ago a mom pulled up in her Expedition, ran in, grabbed her mobile order of four $5.00 drinks and four pastries, which she handed out to her kids in the back seat. Doing the calculation I figured she had just willingly shelled out $35.00 for minimal nutrition. I make that judgment and then realize that I’m about twenty pounds overweight myself!

The challenge will be to bring this group of seventh graders, as well as other students around their age, to the point that they willingly want to make a difference…without injecting Baptist guilt into the equation or catchy gimmicks or celebrity endorsements. Part of the solution, in my belief system, is spiritual. Followers of Jesus are called to care with more than distant sympathy. I come from a tradition (Baptist) that emphasizes personal salvation through a relationship with Christ while we gorge ourselves at church potlucks. Having social responsibility has not been as important as having enough casseroles for people to feast upon. We talk about poverty and hunger even less than we do about tithing.

But maybe this group of seventh graders will glean some things from the new boy from Uganda that will allow them to take a step in a responsible direction! Maybe, just maybe!

Nine Girl Scouts Dancing

December 15, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                         December 15, 2014

                                             

There are many pictures of Christmas that cross our minds or are caught by our eyes. Holly and mistletoe…egg nog and fruitcake…the mall Santa and front-yard inflatables. We use a number of things to convey the messages of hope, peace, love, and joy. Sometimes it’s hard to keep the proper perspective of things. My daily email box is full of on-line offers for everything from doormats to designer jeans. I’ve never had so many emails from Omaha Steaks!

A few days ago I was driving by the grocery store and I saw a sight that brought joy to my soul. In front of the store was one of the red buckets for The Salvation Army. I could hear the bell being rung.

But then in front of the bucket were nine Girl Scouts dancing round and round in a circle, laughing…enjoying…experiencing a sense of delight as they manned the bucket for a couple of hours. It was a picture of Christmas being lived out. Dancing with joy because of the season’s reason, while performing acts of charity.

Joy in child-like giggles.

Collecting coins and dollar bills to help the impoverished gain a step in the uncertainness of daily living.

Joy-filled charity. A picture of the blessed being a blessing.

Christmas is many things. On the day the girl scouts danced a “grandparently” couple at church lit the advent candle and shared how this past year had included many challenges but many, many more blessings. A dear lady who loves God and people brought me gingerbread cookies shaped like moosely-looking reindeer. In receiving we sought to give, and invited an African-American gentleman from church to join us for lunch.

Joy and delight…giving and receiving…being blessed and being the blessing…all of those are descriptions of Christmas that convey images, actions, feelings, and pictures.

God only knows how much delight those nine girl scouts brought to the customers coming and going from the supermarket, but I know that sparked a flame within my soul that warmed my heart.

 

Shoes for Joey

December 10, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         December 10, 2013

                                          

(The following story is based on something that actually happened to me today. The names suggested, however, are fictitious.)

Mrs. Brown, the school social worker, had a problem. Actually, it seemed like every new day brought a compounding of problems, but today she knew that her problem had two feet and one and a half shoes.

Joey, a fourth grader, had been a little suspect with his school attendance recently. His mom would call in the morning about every other day to say that Joey was ill and wouldn’t be at school that day. The afflictions ranged from a cold to a headache to him running a fever. Over the past month Joey had been to school ten days out of a possible twenty-two.

But today he was there, and Mrs. Brown was starting to piece together some things. Joey had been absent on days when it was cold and snowing, and recently there had been a number of those kind of days. Today the sun had come out to raise the temperature to the upper thirties…a heat wave compared to what they ahd been experiencing.

Joey was at school today, and today Joey’s challenge became clear. Joey needed shoes!

Mrs. Brown got on the phone and called Pastor Mike at the community church down the street, and she told him of her problem.

“I know this is a lot to ask, Pastor, but do you think your church could help? Believe me! Joey’s toes are sticking out of the front of his shoe.”

“I’ll be there in an hour. What size does he wear?”

“Six.”

“Consider it done!”

“Thank you! You don’t know how much this means.”

“Mrs. Brown, whenever there is a need that we can help with put us on speed dial. We consider ourselves to be partners with you in the raising up, caring, and safety of the children of our community.”

“And we need all the help we can get.”

She hung up the phone and breathed a sigh of relief. Joey came from a broken home. He split his time between his mom and his dad. Mrs. Brown was more than a little concerned about him. Sometimes kids come to school wondering if life is going to get any better. It broke her heart especially at this time of the year. So many of the students she dealt with saw Christmas as a depressing time, not a time of joy.

An hour later Pastor Mike got buzzed in through the front door and entered the office with a shoe box in hand.

“I hope these fit.”

“We will soon find out. I’ll have Joey come down to the office to try them on.”

A few minutes later a skinny young boy with a nervous look on his face came into the office. Pastor Mike stood to the side, but noticed that the front of one of Joey’s shoes was held together with duct tape that had been wrapped around and around the shoe like first aid tape trying to bring healing that was beyond it. The tape was fraying and splintering on the sides, and the other shoe looked like it was about to lose the tip. Both shoes were rubbed raw of any tread on the soles.

“Joey, I want you to try these shoes on,” said Mrs. Brown.

Joey had a confused look on his face.

“Go ahead! Just try this one on.”

“But Mrs. Brown, I don’t know if my mom would say I could.”

“I’ll talk to your mom. You let me worry about that part.”

“He slipped his old shoe off and worked his foot slowly into the new shoe with bright shoelaces. A smile rose to the surface.

“Now, I want you to give me your old pair and I’ll take care of them.”

“You don’t think my mom will be mad?”

“Joey, I’ll talk to your mom.”

The young boy thanked the lady and left the office beaming.

“A new pair of shoes,” he thought. “I don’t remember the last time I had a new pair of shoes.”

Mrs. Brown watched him stroll out of the office with a little skip in his step. She looked at Pastor Mike, and with tears streaming down her face she asked, “Did you see the look on his face? I haven’t seen him smile a single time this whole year until today.”

“Think about it, Mrs. Brown. Up until just now every time he looked down at his shoes he was reminded of his poverty. Now he can look at his shoes and be reminded that there’s hope.”