I saw this bumper sticker on my way into school this morning and even though the obvious intention is to make me resent people on welfare, the reaction I had instead was quite the opposite. Setting aside the fact that there are millions of people of people who both work hard and yet still have to be on welfare (commonly known as Wal-Mart employees and/or church planters), my first thought in reading this sticker was to think "That's good advice. There are a lot of people in need in this country and I'm glad that my hard work can help provide for some of them. I'm glad that my work can provide for single mothers who need help raising their children. I'm glad that I can help families who can't afford health insurance or even groceries. And I'm glad others were willing to work hard to help me and my family when we couldn't afford our medical bills."
When did we lose sight of things like compassion and the common good? Oh, I'm sure some of you will come back with "But it's not the government's job to provide all that. You can just give to charity if you want to help others." But the problem with charity is that it can't help everyone. There isn't equal access. If you're lucky enough to live near a big megachurch or a city with lots of charitable organizations, then you can probably get help; but I believe that, in the words of U2, "where you live should not decide whether you live or whether you die". I also believe in the "common good", i.e. that as citizens of a nation, or a state, or a city, or a community, we have responsibilities to each other. It's not about "government" helping those in need, it's about all of us
helping each other, because ultimately (in a representative democracy) "the government"is
So maybe I should get one of those stickers too; except how would I let people know that I mean it literally and not sarcastically?
posted by Mike Clawson at 9:13 AM | Permalink
At 10/07/2008 08:23:00 AM, David
I have to say that I feel just as you do on this one, Mike. I even go so far as to say that I don't resent raising taxes during wartime, or me paying a slightly higher amount for goods and service so that the workers I interact with can eat, pay bills and have some savings (gasp!). I mean, I hate how Wal Mart treats its employees, but do I hate it enough to go ahead and pay 5% more for the stuff they have there if they would care for their employees, my fellow men and women?
I hate to hear people say what is on that sticker: they speak as if they literally work harder because of Welfare! The basic philosophy behind this mentality is that 100% of what I produce or earn should be for me, me, me. I think that is a sad place to be.
The same people who cry out about the "evils of socialism" when talking about Welfare seem to keep their mouths closed about the "evils" when it is Wall Street being the recipient.
At 10/09/2008 03:20:00 PM, Amy
What about the people who are on welfare that don't work hard? Don't get me wrong...I am compassionate too about helping the poor. I enjoy seeking out the people who visit our church who "fit outside the box" and finding ways we can help them. I have known many people who are collecting goverment benefits (welfare, WIC, medicaid etc) who cannot hold down a job, who miss weeks on end due to personal crisis, who bring drugs to work, and who are not responsible. One of my old friends from when I worked in the inner city got his girlfriend pregnant to give her the gift of a baby since she always wanted one. Now they can hardly provide for the baby because he has four other children with four other mothers. What about the person who comes by our church repeatedly asking for this or that? Sure we give him food from our pantry lovingly and willingly and even given him money for various needs. He comes back all the time. We cannot keep writing checks. I think caring for the poor goes beyond government handouts.
The amount of food you can get on food stamps is huge. I was surprised when I found out how much food my friend could get. Honestly it was nice when we qualified for Medicaid. The bills for my child's vaccinations, prescriptions, and doctor's visits now are expensive. I can see why people don't want to get off those programs. Most of my friends in the inner city never cooked and hardly knew how to. I would bring in cooked food all the time to work and they barely knew how to make spaghetti. I thought about starting a cooking class for them and maybe I should have.
I would like to see more energy going into mentoring and giving these people dignity and respect. I love being friends and caring for the poor, but I am tired of seeing them relying constantly on the governement and it's not getting them anywhere.
At 10/12/2008 03:27:00 PM, Kester
I don't think welfare is a perfect system (nor does anyone seem to be arguing for that) and would agree that helping the poor should go beyond "government handouts", but I also applaud Mike's thoughts and wholeheartedly agree. The accusation leveled at Obama and Biden that they are socialists strikes me as ironic, as it comes from the basic Biblical principle that "the man with two tunics should share with him who has noneand the one with food should do the same."