I have spent over 35 years working with, and walking along side, the poor and hungry. I have seen some poor here in our country who expect help and who have been taught by our welfare system that they deserve whatever they can get. But these are a minority.
I have seen far more who struggle to climb out of poverty. This is especially true in other countries. Nothing is more heartbreaking than to watch a mother holding on to an infant dying of hunger. There is a pain in her eyes that time cannot erase.
The tragedy is compounded by knowing she has done everything in her power to keep that child alive. The poor are not lazy, not in my experience. In reality, they will do anything possible to escape the deadly trap of poverty, and that includes working far harder and longer than most of us do.
If a person works only for himself he can perhaps be a famous scholar, a great wise man, a distinguished poet, but never a complete, genuinely great man. History calls those the greatest…who ennobled themselves by working for the universal. Experience praises as the most happy the one who makes most people happy. — Karl Marx
Man becomes great exactly in the degree to which he works for the welfare of his fellow men. — Mahatma Gandhi
Continuing the theme I began in yesterday’s post, I share these quotes from two powerful personalities, both of whom surprisingly share the same view on the subject. As different as these men were, both changed history, and both came to a common understanding that happiness and greatness cannot be separated.
True greatness comes from seeking the good of the other. One is “ennobled” according to Marx by focusing on the universal good.
As radically diverse as these two figures were, both understood that creating good for those around us, creating happiness in our larger community, is the true path to personal fulfillment.
Someone wrapped up in him or herself makes a terribly small package. At least that’s how the old saw goes.
Both Marx and Gandhi agree. Fulfillment, greatness and happiness all come from focusing on the welfare of those around us.
And in a world where 25,000 of our human family will die today from hunger, we all have abundant opportunities to achieve all three.
In my last post I focused on a couple of European proverbs that dealt with both how God provides and our responsibility. That morphed into a mini-rant on the flaws in our US welfare system.
A more familiar saying to most of us, and a response I hear on a regular basis when I teach about ending hunger in our lifetime, is
God helps them that help themselves.
We are told that this little nugget is a Biblical teaching pointing out that the poor are poor because they are to lazy to help themselves. And although there are some poor who are not as industrious as we think they should be, this proverb is just another traditional saying. It isn’t in the Bible.
Many would like to have the Bible to help justify not helping the poor among us, but this proverb is not a quote from the Bible. Look for yourself. It just isn’t there.
As I pointed out yesterday, there are some poor in the United States that have come to the place where they feel entitled to help. This comes from a flawed welfare system that rewards people for not exerting the effort to help themselves.
That doesn’t mean that the hungry in our country should not be helped. Hungry people need to be fed, wherever they are found. How can we tolerate over 40 million of our citizens going hungry on a regular basis?
What is needed is that we fix the broken system. That includes changing the law, It also means changing the values and lifestyles of those receiving aid.
Changes of this magnitude do not happen without tremendous effort and time, but I think it is worth the effort. Do you?
To blame the poor for subsisting on welfare has no justice unless we are also willing to judge every rich member of society by how productive he or she is. Taken individual by individual, it is likely that there’s more idleness and abuse of government favors among the economically privileged than among the ranks of welfare. — Norman Mailer
I find it difficult to disagree with Mr. Mailer’s statement. I’ve seen a lot more abuse of government favors by the rich than by the poor.
We find it easy to blame the poor for doing what the rich are praised for doing on a far larger scale. For the poor it is about survival. For the rich it’s about greed.
What do you think? Do you agree? If you disagree I would love the hear why.