Thursday, March 20, 2008

Lazarus at Our Gate

* my dad sent me this from a CMDA newsletter.  (Sherry)

At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. (Lk 16:20-21)

Peter Yok was only 11 years old when Muslim soldiers attacked his Christian village in southern Sudan. Like thousands of young Sudanese, Peter was permanently separated from his parents and other family members. After spending several years in a refugee camp in a neighboring African country, Peter was granted permission to immigrate to the United States. On arriving he was given a few hundred dollars to pay for food and the rent on a sparse apartment in a declining section of town. Having received some instruction in English while in the refugee camp, Peter was able to secure low-wage employment in a factory that was accessible by bus. He was granted Medicaid health insurance for nine months. Apart from the emergency room at the nearby county hospital, there were no primary health providers near his apartment willing to accept his Medicaid insurance.

Across the globe and around the corner, we have the poor at our gates. While Americans enjoy an unrivaled standard of living, 2.8 billion people (47% of the world), live on less than two dollars a day.1 Here at home, 12% of Americans live at or below the established poverty level, the majority of those being women and children.

The collective hardship and suffering of so many people, particularly women and children, is so overwhelming that many of us have chosen to turn away. Our ability to do so is facilitated by the fact that we can live our lives without having much real contact with the poor. For some Christian physicians and dentists, our affluent suburbs, social organizations, educational institutions, and even churches make it possible to largely avoid meaningful interaction with the needy, except in distant or token ways. Such a world makes it easier to forget the needs of the poor and subsequently accumulate more for the purposes of personal and family consumption. One generation of affluent Christians teaches the next generation, by virtue of the economic choices they make, to build prosperous and protected lives. Without careful consideration, we can unknowingly blend in comfortably with our self-directed culture. In that case, we neither honor God, nor help our needy neighbors.

O God, please help me open my eyes to Lazarus at my gate!

1 World Bank PovertyNet,

Adapted from Practice by the Book.

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