Yesterday I was driving home from church and thinking about discussions with kids about homeless people or the poor in which kids would make statements about how "they" are lazy and should just work harder. As a side note, when I suggest that we should give more of our money to the poor, statements are also often made about how the rich shouldn't have to share their wealth with the poor because the rich worked hard for it. My standard answer is something along the lines of, "So the single mother working two or three jobs who still can't make ends meet is not working hard?" Sometimes that comment is enough to open a mind or two, sometimes it leads to more arguments about how we shouldn't have to share...But I digress...
Kids may say essentially "It's their fault for being poor, so we shouldn't have to help them." Of course, many people living in poverty as adults were born into poverty and couldn't get out of the situation. And, I suggest, it is true that some people may make choices that lead them to being poor, but all of us at one point or another are going to get ourselves into a mess (or maybe we already have) that we're going to need someone else's help to make right. Sure, some of our messes are larger than others, but we all need help at one point or another to move beyond some disaster of our own creation. I ask students if they would want help in those situations. Usually there is quiet and I don't generally invite further conversation.
So yesterday as this was mulling in my mind, I had a thought: there are all sorts of medical problems that people have that can be, at least in part, attributed to choices. Certain cancers (lung cancer comes to mind) are often attributed to lifestyle choices. Obesity usually has to do with eating or activity choices. Injuries often happen because of our own actions- in sports, work, or play. Yet I don't hear anyone saying that when the sick or injured show up at doctor's offices or hospitals to get treated, they should be denied treatment. Why not? It's their fault, so why should they get help?
Mind you, I am glad no one is making that argument. When people are hurting, we should help them so that they can heal, because ultimately their health leads to a healthier society. But then I wonder why, if most of us accept the importance of physical healing, far fewer accept the importance of other types of healing.
Is it because physical healing does not depend on us (unless we are in the medical field)? We don't have to give anything up for a cast to get put on an arm. We do, however, have to change and perhaps sacrifice something so that the situation of the poor is better. We have to accept that maybe, just maybe, it's not all their fault that they're poor. Ooh, that's not easy. We may even have to admit that not only is it not all their fault, it may be partially our fault. The choices we make might just have something to do with "their" situation. Ooh, that is an even harder reality to face.
But I hope we will face that reality. I hope we play the "blame game" honestly. And then I hope we'll do something about it. I say "we" because I know I have a long way to go before I have made all good life-affirming choices. I still have to move past laziness in some cases. And in others I simply still have a lot to learn. God help me and all of us to do so.