Despite plentiful food, there are those who go hungry.

Despite free education, there are those who are uneducated.

Despite resources to help, there are those who go unhelped.

Despite large government investments, the problem remains. The poor remain, despite all of our programs and efforts to end poverty. What is it that makes this acceptable? Where is our outrage?

The following graph outlines the estimated spending in 2013 for various governmental programs. Welfare, which in this graph includes unemployment, accounts for 11.77% of the budget. While definitions vary, it would appears that actually about 5.5% of the budget goes toward what we traditionally think of as ‘welfare programs.’ This excludes a program like unemployment which requires someone pay into the program to benefit from it.

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Our government spends a lot of money to fight poverty, but not as much as I would have guessed. I would have guessed at least 10% went to direct welfare programs. About double what we actually spend.

While this graph shows our modern-day approach to spending money to address the issue of the poor, as far back as the 1600s, societies were working to find a way to address this very same problem.

Did you know that the Elizabethan Poor Laws that were put in place in the 1600’s were a result of the decline of charitable monasteries? Before then, the church had been the provider of support and assistance to the poor, but as the Christian reform movement swept through, the monasteries began to change, and caring for the poor transitioned to the government for the first time in our history. According to The Victorian Web, during the reign of Elizabeth I a spate of legislation was written to address raising money for and administering relief to the poor. You can read more at www.victorianweb.org/history/poorlaw/elizpl.html

These Elizabethan Poor Laws eventually became the British Poor Laws that were brought over to the United States with the first settlers. These laws were in place until the Great Depression when many of our modern day programs were put in place.

I found this fascinating – first that the poor laws went back so far in our history. I typically stop at the Great Depression. Secondly it was interesting to learn about the issues that they faced from the very beginning. The issue of dealing with people who were capable of working, but refused to do so, was an issue from the very beginning.

So, for more than 413 years we have struggled with what to do with people who would rather abuse the system than find gainful employment. Interesting.

We probably aren’t going to find a government program to solve for that—you know, if we haven’t by now.

This led me online to look for interesting solutions that are being used today or have been tried in the past. We will look into some of the ideas that are out there in another post. We can’t tonight though because my research ended up leading me down a different path. God’s tricky like that.

I think the internet is one of the most horrifying areas to do research, because of all the mean people you bump into in the comment sections. Really. mean. people. It is horribly disheartening.

To be frank, after reading through a few blogs on the welfare systems and hearing first hand from some of the ‘righteous’ and some of the ‘abusers,’ I just wanted to write a, “Never mind, I quit,” post and tell you guys cute stories about my kids. (I HEAR many of you saying, YES!) Sorry, I’m not going to do it.

I can’t do that because figuring out how to help other people is critically important. And letting the small mindedness of the internet sway me seems a bit too easy. Distraction is an evil thing. We are going to continue down this road.

Those of you who share my faith recently celebrated Easter – the death and resurrection of Jesus. And, I tell you, Jesus thought caring for the poor was very important.

“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” (Matt. 25:35-36)

“If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but shuts off his compassion from him—how can God’s love reside in him?” (1 John 3:17)

“How can God’s love reside in Him?” That hurts. I know poverty seems too big to fix, and too exhausting, and too maddening. I truly know, but we must try. We must try because it is the right thing to do.

Here is what it feels like to write about this – and maybe it feels like this to read it, too. It is like my brain is a steel trap that has been shut for a very, very long time. Within that trap are all of my strongly held beliefs. In order for anyone, including myself, to change any of those beliefs, means that I have to pry that steel trap open, and then hold it open the whole entire time that I am researching and writing. Then, I finish, and when I wake up the next day, I find that my natural inclination is to go right back to my old way of thinking.

SNAP. The trap shuts down.

The good news is that with each passing week, the steel trap is ever so slightly less difficult to open. Still ridiculously difficult, but slightly less so than before.

God keeps putting these things on my mind and in my heart, and I’m just going to keep writing about them. I don’t feel like I have much of a choice, because of all nights, tonight, I would just quit if I could.

The problem of poverty is a problem of relationships. The way to fix the problem of poverty is with relationships. The abusers of the system are easy to spot, label, and judge. The abuse that comes out of our hearts is hard to see, difficult to label, and we don’t often judge ourselves very harshly. We are them. I am beginning to believe that anytime you complain about a faceless people: the abusers, the users, the immigrants, the lazy… the issue, my friend, is you. Because complaining is not action, no matter how passionately we complain. Never once, did God call us to complain about a problem. Never.  And he didn’t call us to petition our government.  Our God is a God of action – and he called us to action.

And I only have the courage to say that you are the issue because I fully acknowledge that the issue is me, too.

We cannot change a government program that’s been broken for 500 years.

We cannot change a person whose choices we disagree with.

We can only change ourselves.

Until we stop looking to a nameless entity to deal with a faceless population, nothing will change.

The immigrants you want kicked out are people who have kids and dreams. The poor that you want to ignore are broken, tired, shamed, hurting. And the users who abuse the system? God’s child. All of them.

We cannot love God and hate people. And isn’t not helping just like hate? Isn’t it hate to leave the Samaritan by the side of the road? Isn’t that exactly what hate is? We may want to say it’s busyness that keeps us from helping. We may want to say it is frustration. But, the question is, what does it feel like to the person in need? Don’t you think to be left in a state of lack is to not feel love? How then, should we label the absence of love? We cannot love God and not help people. Can we? How can we?

I am just broken wide open tonight. Just broken and hurt and scared. This weight is so heavy. I have no choice but to lay it at the cross and walk away tonight. I want the steel trap in my mind to remain open, so I am eager to meet with you all, hear your ideas, listen to your challenges. I cannot bear this weight alone.

So a few weeks or months ago I signed up for 5k Color Run with some family and friends.  It sounded great a few weeks/months ago…but now it is 3 days away.

I decided yesterday, if I was going to run a 5k on Saturday, I might should start training.  So yesterday (yes, yesterday) I went for a run.  I ran/walked two miles – a little shy of the 3.1 I will be doing on Saturday, but a good start.   I felt pretty good – had I more time I could have went the full 3.1.  Really.  I could have.  Yesterday.

But TODAY, I can barely walk.  I mean, literally, I can barely walk.  I don’t think I’ve ever been quite this sore.  It’s pathetic.  I thought, since I do an hour on my elliptical 3-4 times a week sometimes that I would be in pretty good shape.  I was very wrong.

So now, instead of planning my run/walk strategy for Saturday, I am just praying that I will be able to meander across the finish line before dusk.

Tomorrow, bright and early, I will get back on the elliptical and try to work it out a bit.  I do know that will help, this week.  But, I am traveling next week which means I will be in heels two days after the race.  🙂  Life is so funny.

So I’ve learned a valuable lesson or two.  First of all, my elliptical is great cardio but not so much on the muscular.   Secondly, one should begin training for a race prior to the week of the race (to be honest this isn’t so much a new learning as a nice reminder for my procrastinating heart).

I’m sure there are more lessons to uncover, but to be honest I am just in too much pain to learn.  At least it doesn’t hurt to type.

Be on the look out for a new post tomorrow night as we continue our discussion on poverty.   In the mean time, any prayers for a miraculous muscular healing is much appreciated!

 

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