Thursday, May 7, 2015


When I was a young man, old enough to have a driver’s license but not yet having one, I was given permission by one of my parents to drive the family car around the block.  Back then it didn’t really strike me as any big deal.  Today I wonder if I would have let my son do that.
Something on the news recently made me think of that day and what would have happened if I had been pulled over and issued a ticket.  I think I know exactly what would have happened.  My parents, acting very contrite, would have guided me through the process of taking care of the infraction going with me to the courthouse.  They would have probably (in this case) covered the costs for me.  I (we) would have learned our lesson and that would have been (for the most part) the end of it.
So here is what is bothering me.  This was a news item on NPR.  They ran a story on some pretty serious trouble makers in a particular city.  Here is a typical story:


A young man gets caught driving without a license.  He is issued a ticket.  He has neither money nor the motivation to go take care of it.  Perhaps he doesn’t live the best life but at some point he decides he to straighten up.  By now the fines for the ticket he avoided have mounted.  He has no job and to get any kind of real job he needs a driver’s license – which he can’t get until he takes care of this growing debt.  So he works under the table in his neighborhood for less than completely legal work.  It continues the downward spiral from there.
It’s one thing for someone to fall into such a pit who has social connections (understanding and knowhow) and resources.  It is another if you don’t even know what to ask let alone who. 
Here is an analogy:  When I was going to Zimbabwe to work with the poor, there were some who chided me for the effort saying that there were poor in our country; poor that didn’t even have food in their refrigerator.  What they failed to realize was that the people we were going to see didn’t even have refrigerators – or kitchens – or electricity – nor were they at least in a community where SOMEBODY had electricity – where nobody has any kind of representation in government.
There are different kinds of poverty.
Throwing money at a problem is often not much help.
This is why in the Didache (one of the earliest Christian writings) it says, “Let your alms sweat in the palms of your hands until you know to whom you are giving them.”  It is necessary to make sure you are fixing the correct problems.

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