Thursday, September 29, 2005

make poverty visible

poverty, for many north americans, is a (third) world away. That changed (for the most part) when wind and water belted the city of New Orleans and much of the gulf coast. this quote says it best...

"To be poor in America was to be invisible, but not after this week, not after those images of the bedraggled masses at the Superdome, convention center and airport. No one can claim that the post-Reagan orthodoxy of low taxes and small government, which does wonders for the extremely rich, also inevitably does wonders for the extremely poor. What was that about a rising tide lifting all boats? What if you don't have a boat?" (source)

we like to keep our poor out of sight because it disturbs us to see others in need. it upsets our comfort and it stirs some holy compassion. here's an example of how it works in our city of lexington. one of my friends who is homeless went missing for a few days last week. speaking with him yesterday i discovered he had been in jail for 4 days. turns out he was having a beer with a friend in a local park in the sunshine of a late afternoon. he wasn't drunk, neither was his friend. they had one beer each. they didn't have a living room to meet in. the park is the place where they visit with one another but the police decided they had broken the 'open container' law (a law that stops some people drinking in public places - i guarantee that if my wife and i had been there with a bottle of wine we would not have spent 4 days in jail). i believe the arrest of my friend has much more to say about the offense caused by seeing people so clearly without their own home than it does about any legal infraction.

the work of biblical advocacy is making poverty visible and my hope is that we, the people of God, can help keep 'the least of these' in the sight of the nation. we will certainly need to help make poverty visible before there will be the sustained inspiration to make it history.

homelessness and the web - a curious post script:
this week alone i have had emails from a homeless friend wanting to add me to his yahoo profile information (b'day, address, hobbies, etc.). another man who we are trying to help find housing told me to "google it" when trying to recall the name of an income based apartment complex.
this link includes several "homeless bloggers". strange days.


Anonymous said...

hey geoff,
thanks for the post. it makes me think of a quote from one of the Berrigan brothers (I think Dan, the Jesuit priest):
"The poor tell us who we are. Prophets tell us who we could be. So we hide the poor and kill the prophets." Like all quotable quotes, it's maybe a little too simple, but an important thought nevertheless.
robbie turner

geoff said...

perfect robbie. thanks for the quote. as for quotes being too simple....perhaps we need 'simple' sometimes.
peace to you.