We will get back to our discussion on poverty next week.

This week, I just want to take a time out and say Thank You!!
Thank you for reading my crazy ideas.
Thank you for sharing my crazy ideas.
Thank you for your private messages that spur me to think more deeply.
Thank you for your comments and those of you who have joined into the conversations.
Thank you for your book recommendations.
Thank you for the random, off-hand comments, “I enjoy reading your blog by the way.” (You have no idea how those comments make my heart flip.)

It’s my birthday so I thought it was a great time to step back and say THANK YOU. I started this blog just before my 40th birthday – it was a mid-life awakening. Not a crisis, but an awakening. I realized that I didn’t have to wait to be a writer until after I retired. I realized that no one was going to come up and give me permission to have a voice. I realized that I was never going to feel like a full fledged adult who was ‘worthy’ of doling out advice. I realized not many other people do either. I realized that I wanted to hear what I had to say – and if I would just start writing to myself, I may find that other people wanted to listen in. I realized that you didn’t have to wait until you were sure about something.

And here we are, a year later, and we are doing this together. We are connecting and thinking about deep and hard issues. We are connecting and laughing at silly things.

Here I am. More alive that I have ever been. Thank you.

I’m celebrating my birthday in Georgia – far from my family. Although I would certainly choose to be with Greg and the littles, it was still a really awesome day. First of all – I woke up! Banner way to start a birthday. Second – I am attending a really amazing class on leadership and learning some amazing and insightful things. Third – My co-workers took care of me, took me out tonight, and made the day special. Four – I got to spend time with our CEO and CFO today. They took time to meet with the 12 of us in class, and that’s impressive. I love working for a company that is working to make things better and investing in their people. What an honor.

That got me to thinking. This blog is the job of my soul, and I am the CEO. I wondered, “How can I invest in my people?” I looked around and realized that I don’t have any people :). BUT, I do have you – and you are awesome and totally worthy of investment.

Here is what I came up with:

I want to give away a photo session to a family and a high school senior who otherwise could not afford it. Every family, and every high school senior, should have a fabulous photo of themselves.
I do natual light, outdoor photography so we will need to coordinate locations.
I will professionally edit them and I will give full print rights to all of the edited piks (5-15 poses/shots) on a DVD as well as printing a package (1 8X10, 2 5X7, 20 wallets)

I will pick someone over the next week and let them know. We will celebrate warmer weather and spring!

They have to be in the southern Missouri area (sorry my long distance friends!)

So please get the word out – Just send me an email at jgaustin@me.com.
Please provide:
Family: Number of family members, location, any other pertinent information
Senior: Location, Male or Female, Graduation date, any other pertinent information
I’ll post on the blog as soon as we have the slots filled.
I will pick at random in the next week.

🙂 I’m so excited! 🙂

And, in case you didn’t get the message: THANK YOU.

PS: Everyone suggested will remain private. Dignity will be protected and honored.

PSS: I can travel as a couple hours – so Crocker area is in as well – north, too !

23. March 2013 · 4 comments · Categories: Family

Yesterday I was getting ready, and as is often the case Grace was in the bathroom chatting away. I try to pay attention. I really do. But when someone has the ability to talk every waking moment you can, on occasion, accidentally, tune it out a bit.

So I was caught off guard when out of the blue she said, “I wish Grandpa Mac still lived in his house. I wish he could come play in my room.” Tears welled up in my eyes and I just replied, “Me too, sweetie. Me too.”

Just as quickly she was off on another subject and darted out of the room. She just left me there, with no idea of how her little wish revealed a thousand of my own. It was harder for me to re-group and re-start.

That’s how grief works. It’s a sneaky emotion that comes at you out of the blue, darts in and darts out. One moment you are fixing your hair and the next you realize you’ve been lost in thought for ten minutes.

I came across a profound quote this week. At first, I thought it was so mournful, but it has stayed with me and, surprisingly, has brought me comfort.

“I mean, they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.” – Banksy

So these moments that sneak up on me? These memories and wishes that the littles have? These are all just ways of keeping alive that which remains. The memories and the love.

But I sure do wish he could play in my little girls room again.

I like to write about things that make my head hurt:)  That typically means we are talking about pretty heavy stuff.  So ‘On the Lighter Side…’ posts will be a little more light-hearted and silly things.  There are links both at the top of the blog and to the left that will take you to the series on poverty posts.

Ran across this picture yesterday and it reminded me of the machine gathering dust in the corner….

In October 2011 I hand-made my children’s Halloween costumes.  This was an AMAZING feat.  I do not sew and I come from a short line (both physical and metaphorical *love you mom!*) of women who do not sew.  But sew I did, by hand no less.

IMG_0054   After this miraculous feat I promptly told my mom I wanted a sewing machine for Christmas.  This was kind of like asking a teetotaler for a case of whiskey.  She obliged, all the while believing no good could come of it.  I promptly went to Pinterest and began pinning a million amazing things that I would create once I had access to one of those electronic sewing devices!  Dreams were made, people.

I got a sewing machine for Christmas in 2011.

I’ve not touched it.  It frightens me.  No good can come of it.

To be certain to see every post in our series, please sign up and follow All New People. This will ensure each post is delivered to your email. Facebook’s settings and algorithms change from time to time and you may not see these posts in your news feeds.

This is the second post in this series. Links to the prelude and week one are at the end of today’s post. Because of the immensity of the subject, no one single post is going to cover the entire subject, so I will continue posting links to the previous posts for those who join us later.

As always, please share this blog if you think it is a dialogue worth having. The more people who give their opinion – or even just think about these things – the more likely we are to make a difference.

“For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you took care of Me; I was in prison and you visited Me.”
Matthew 25:36

I’d like to continue our dialogue on what it means to be poor and how we are meant to respond to the poor. But, before I write this week’s post I wanted to share some of my week. I have been talking to a number of people about this series, and I thought I would give you a cliff notes version of where my heart is and why this subject of poverty has struck such a chord in me.

I am writing about the poor and about what our responsibility is in regard to the poor in spite of my fear of putting these opinions out there for the world to see and judge. I am doing this because I believe that we have, as a society, given the government too much responsibility when it comes to caring for the poor.

I think by making this subject a policy discussion, we have made it much too easy to have an opinion but no action. It is too easy for us to lambast the welfare system, post Facebook pushes supporting drug testing, and feel like caring for the poor isn’t our responsibility.

I also believe taking a handout from the government is humiliating, and I think humiliation breeds contempt and cynicism. I believe that if we took back this responsibility from the government, both sides – the helpers and the helped – would benefit immensely.

For those reasons, I believe that one person helping another person and meeting that person exactly where his or her individual and unique needs are is far better than a faceless entity handing out the same assistance to a hurting population.

For this week, we are going to stick with the financial aspect of poverty. Based on the comments from last week’s post and some exchanges I’ve had via private message and conversation, there is much more to uncover. Today we are going to talk about personal responsibility, but not the kind most people think of when they think of poverty. We will get to that, but not yet.

Poor as defined by Merriam Webster’s Dictionary:

Poor:

1
a : lacking material possessions
b : of, relating to, or characterized by poverty
2
a : less than adequate : meager
b : small in worth

Poverty:
a : the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions
b : renunciation as a member of a religious order of the right as an individual to own property
2
: Scarcity, Dearth
3
a : debility due to malnutrition
b : lack of fertility

When I first called on Facebook friends for definitions of the poor, I was amazed by the depth and breadth of definitions. You told me the poor were the homeless, the addicted, the imprisoned, the mentally or physically ill, the widowed, the abandoned. Those who are unemployed, underemployed, begging, searching, hurting, cheating, lonely, scared, mean, abused, abusive, and weary. Those who are lost. The poor are kids forced into a system outside their families because they lack unconditional love. The poor include people who are spiritually bereft, those who lack insurance, and those who lack documentation.

To be poor, at its core, is to lack. Doesn’t this mean that we are all poor at certain points in our life, or even throughout individual days? From one moment to the next we may cycle in and out of a state of lacking.

However, it was very eloquently pointed out last week that just because someone does not make a lot of money, it does not mean they are poor. I agree fully. It is entirely possible to be near financial poverty, but not to lack for anything. If one has chosen to work with the poor, in many cases he or she will not be financially well off. Our society tends to reward those who generate wealth with more wealth. But what about those positions that do not generate financial wealth? They often do not pay well. Our social workers, our firefighters, our police men and women, our teachers – the very people who are tasked with helping other people – are the ones most likely to be poorly compensated. They are also, it should be noted, financed by our government. Private institutions tend to pay higher salaries for these same skills.

So very quickly in the series I want to be clear that not having money does not automatically mean lack. But equally, if not more importantly, finding a way to be content in poverty, does not eliminate the responsibility to help. Contentment does not cover lack.

There are people in this world who have nothing and, although they realize their position, they want for nothing. They have learned to be content in their situation. They trust that they will be okay, one way or another. They know hunger and cold. They know fear, but within them is the ability to remain happy and content.

They are a joy to help, thankful, even grateful. They take what is given with a pure spirit of appreciation. It is a balm for both the giver and the receiver. The exchange seems kissed by God.

There are other people in this world who have nothing and want for everything. They are angry and mean. They have learned to trust no one and to take anything offered for there probably will be no more for a long while.

They are hard to help. They feel entitled. They take what is given and curse you for not giving more. It is a spirit crushing exchange for both the giver and the receiver. At the end you understand what it feels like to be God forsaken. You are depleted.

I am poor. Must I be righteous as well?

It is far more likely that a life of poverty and lack will result in someone who is not giving and not happy. The weariness of lack is far more likely to wear someone’s softer sides away and leave them with a protective shield of distrust. They may take without thanking. They may think, “It’s about time I got what I deserved.”

Someone who has gone hungry, who has watched their children go hungry in this bright and shiny land of opportunity, is probably pretty mad. It would be hard to watch people (well, such as me) with our gadgets, and Facebook pictures of vacations and trips, and our lack of lack, walk around and share space with their lack. It would be especially hard when the only help you have ever received has been from the government, and you know many people resent you even getting that.

Many do struggle with addiction. Many struggle with mental problems that make this world difficult, if not unbearable. No one ever sets a goal to be on welfare…wait – some do. Some abuse the system, play the system, work the system – for all it’s worth. Some think we are all chumps as they take and take and take.

I am poor. Must I be righteous as well?

Whether we admit it or not, we choose not to help because people are hard to help. Many are hard to be around and hard to help. The problem is too big. The issues are too complex. Throwing money at it won’t help, but engaging takes too much time.

Without realizing it, many of us have altered Christ’s urge to help those around us so that we remove ourselves from the direct responsibility. We may hear:

For I was hungry and you paid your taxes so the government could give Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you paid your government taxes to give Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you crossed the street to avoid me and hoped the police would take Me in; I was naked and you paid your taxes so the government would clothe Me; I was sick and you paid your taxes so Medicaid could took care of Me; I was in prison and you begrudged Me the cost and left me there….

Bu that’s not what He said. In His call to us to be compassionate, he cut out the middleman and placed the responsibility of caring for others squarely on our shoulders.

“For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you took care of Me; I was in prison and you visited Me.”
Matthew 25:36

There are no qualifiers in this directive. We are not to feed those who are thankful, we are to feed those who are hungry. We are not to visit those in prison who are wrongly accused, we are to visit those in prison. We are not to take in people ‘like’ us, we are to take in strangers.

We have removed the personal relationship and our personal responsibility from the equation and now the equation no longer works. There is a problem to be solved here. We cannot give people sleeping pills and begrudge them their sleep. Systems are easier to abuse than people. If we take back control, if we put the relationship back into the exchange, if we start from a place of love and not a place of policy, only then can we awaken the hope that God places inside each of us – hope of a healthy and thriving life that adds value to society.

A reader recommended an incredible book: “When Helping Hurts: How to alleviate poverty without hurting the poor… and yourself” by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert.

Their book is an in-depth and studied exam of this subject. If you, like me, find this issue of poverty and what to do about it tugging at your conscience, please go pick up a copy of this book.

Please join me in turning our hearts toward this complex problem. What’s your reaction to today’s discussion of the poor among us? What—if anything—do you think our individual responsibility is toward others? How do you respond to Christ’s words in Matthew 25:36? I welcome your comments as we delve deeper in our conversation.

(Please post your comments directly to the blog so all of the readers get a chance to hear the conversation – Thank you!)

Links to the previous posts in this series:
Week One: Prelude to the series on the poor…
Week Two: Why do most poor people tend to remain poor?

This is about my seventh run at this week’s blog post. I go between pondering esoteric philosophy and facts and back again. None of it is striking the right chord in me, so I’m going to try a little free association and see where we get.

I would typically identify as a Republican – though I have voted Democrat. I truly don’t connect with either party completely on any issue so that leaves me mainly as a standing member of the Dissatisfied Party. Based on what I’ve gathered from various reports, tweets, Facebook posts and water cooler conversations, the DP has the largest population base right now.

I guess I’m starting here because that is typically where we start policy discussions in America. We identify the other person’s party and then define how they feel based on the vitriol we hear spewed out by mainstream media. Depending on what popular 24 hour news channel you watch, you are edified daily on the ridiculous position of the other party and why they will destroy this fine country if we don’t take radical action to stop them.

The end result of this at a grass roots level is primarily political disengagement. Even those who are willing to engage in debate typically end up disenfranchised or disillusioned to the point of inertia.

For the purposes of this series – let’s jump over that pit of despair and not get bogged down in policy. Let’s talk about welfare, its history, and how we got to this point, but let’s start with a different approach than the political party-based one we may be all-too familiar with.

I don’t know if you have used Quora (www.quora.com), an amazing site where you can pose questions and get a wealth of opinions. I am using it as part of my research on this subject of poverty

One of the questions I found on Quora is: “Why do you think most poor people remain poor?”

It is this question that I want us to consider. I don’t want to get into another debate about the freeloaders in our system because there is no debate there. People abuse the system. I don’t want to get into a debate on the right public policy to eradicate poverty. There has been poverty throughout history. A tweak to public policies that date back to the 1600’s isn’t the answer.

What I want us to think about in this series is simply this question – Why do poor people remain poor? Furthermore, what insight does that give us?

Had you been born into true poverty, you most likely would remain in true poverty. This is a statistical fact. One of the greatest indicators of escaping poverty is never having known poverty.

It is easy for those of us who grew up in middle class America, or better, to kid ourselves that we have somehow managed to stay out of welfare and do well for ourselves based solely on our amazing work ethic. It is so hard to let go of the idea that individual responsibility is the master determination of our destiny that considering any other idea feels almost anti-American. I know it’s hard for me. I would like to think that my hard work is what got me here and that given a worse set of circumstances at birth, my hard work would have eventually gotten me here again. In many cases, that veiwpoint is simply not true.

Jon Crater painted this vivid picture in response to the question posted on Quora:

“Let me paint a picture” he begins.

“You grow up the 5th of 7 children to a single mother. She herself never finished high school.

Your father does not support you in any way. Your mother worked a job at Burger King once. But that was before you were born. You’ve never seen her work a job in your life.

You are gifted with only average intelligence.

Your mother rarely shows interest in your school work.

You don’t personally know anyone well who has been to college

You have no idea what you would even do in college since you don’t have any exposure to any professions that you actually need a college degree for.

The goal that everyone seems to have for you is to stay alive, stay off drugs and stay out of jail.

The only people you know with money are criminals. Everyone else is poor and most of them are on some sort of government assistance. No one expects you to be any different.

The only job you can get is 30 hours a week, pays minimum wage, has no benefits and barely pays for the gas you use to get there, assuming your car doesn’t break down on the way.

So…what is it about this kind of upbringing (which is astoundingly common in the US) do you think actually encourages prosperity as a goal? ”

The picture Mr. Crater created with his stark words was sobering to me. It helped take me out of statistics and “free-loaders” and “users” and put me in the shoes of people. These poor we talk about – they are people. People who often face neglect and cruelty the likes of which we can not fully comprehend. We will talk about the systems later on in this series that help to perpetuate this cycle – but for now I just want us to spend some time thinking about our question…

Why do the poor tend to remain poor? And then a follow up question: What is our response to the answer?

If the poor remain poor because they lack the means with which to escape poverty, then isn’t it our duty as members of a thriving first world society, not to mention Christians (for those of us who are), to provide them with a ladder, a bridge, a map? A way out?

Let’s come out from behind our go-to arguments and common perceptions and start to think of the poor as people—not “poor people;” rather, people who are poor.

Next week we will look at some of the other responses I received regarding the question I posed on Facebook: How do you define the poor? Obviously, financially poor is but one aspect. I think even from this week’s dialogue we can see that financial poverty is often a result of lack in multiple areas of life.

Please post your reactions. How does this discussion of the poor make you feel? I had some defensive thoughts come to mind that I mentioned above – what defensive responses came to mind as you read? Does this make you willing to think differently about the topic?

I can’t wait to hear from you.

As always – click the plus sign next to the “Follow” button to subscribe. You will get emails sent to you with each new post.

Thank you!

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