Our Eyes Were Opened


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One Another

Have you ever thought about how many “one another” statements there are in the Bible? It seems that we are to be involved with each other. We can’t just live our lives for ourselves. That can be a quite a challenge!!!

Here’s a sampling:

Love…one another

Receive…

Greet…

Be subject to…

Forbear…

Confess your sins to …

Forgive…

Do not judge…

Serve…

Bear one another’s burdens…

Pray for…

Do not speak against…

Do not bite and devour…

Do not envy…

Do not lie to…

Build up…

Teach one..

Encourage…

Admonish…

Be hospitable…

Be kind…

 

Wouldn’t the world be a different place if we could do these things for one another?

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Is It Really Doing Good?

There’s a movement happening around the country where workers give up their lunch hour to serve meals to poor and homeless people. The group either prepares the meal themselves or they purchase the food they give. A number of organizations are promoting this effort with great enthusiasm. If you look online you can find comments from proud parents about the efforts of their grown children, articles from media sources, and other promotions about this wonderful thing that’s taking place.

Even though I want people who are hungry to eat, this effort seems self-serving for the group providing the meal. It’s a one-day soup kitchen. It seems the efforts could be better used to help an existing soup kitchen to have adequate resources to provide delicious and nutritious meals on an ongoing basis, not just occasionally.

I would like to channel the impetus to address hunger in ways that actually provide long term solutions. What if companies decided that they wanted to hire lower skilled workers, pay them a living wage, and train them in work that could take care of their family’s basic needs?  What if companies decided they wanted to create and maintain a community garden where they interacted with residents and then gave the food to them? What if the company decided they wanted to influence governmental leaders to make dealing with hunger a priority in our country so that food stamps were increased rather than decreased and that wages were adequate to provide for basic needs? What if a company used the lunch hour to provide training for their employees about the realities of poverty so that they would reduce judgment and increase compassion? What if companies decided to use their own networks to promote ways to end persistent poverty? What if…? What if…?

If the one day for providing meals gets people thinking about hunger in a deeper way, then I’m all for it. If the project primarily makes the employees feel good about themselves, then I suggest there are other ways to make ourselves feel important without taking advantage of the neediness of another person. Because…what will that hungry person do the next day? 


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Guest appearance for Angelika’s Journal

Tonight, June 24,  I’m on Niteline on WGGS-TV to talk about Angelika’s Journal.Image The book deals with many issues that children who live in poverty face: housing instability and constant moving, lack of access to basic services, substandard housing, hunger, fear, and overcrowded living situations. Families live in multi-generational situations where grandparents are expected to raise their grandchildren and even their great-grandchildren. Children also learn amazing life lessons that can help navigate the journey of growing up as evidenced by Angelika’s commitment to live, love, share, and being good to others.
Angelika’s Journal is a great resource for those who want to understand the impact of poverty on children in order to address the challenges of persistent poverty and change the world for the good of everyone. With understanding comes insight. With insight comes passion. With passion comes motivation. With motivation comes listening. With listening comes solutions. With solutions comes access to amazing human resources, with amazing human resources comes a world where people can live, love, share, and be good to others.


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Rag Doll

Years ago I worked with a woman who was diagnosed with a mental illness. I lost contact with her when she moved to another state. However, she left this poem:

Father, why do I try so hard to be more than I am?

Am I so unhappy having limitations…

Knowing I am weak…

Being Human?

I try to impress…say, “I’m fine”…

busy myself with activity…give advice…

or pretend to answer any questions.

I am like a china doll, tottering on the shelf of life.

Father, let me be a rag doll…

Worn with love, knowing it can’t stand alone,

An easy listener, comfortable to be with, whose

Bent is simply toward being a rag doll.

Rag dolls

                Don’t break

                                When they fall,

Yet they can’t stand up

                Unless

                                They are held.

Please Father, please just hold me.

 


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Vacation Time

What plans do you have for this summer? Will you go to the beach? The mountains? Maybe you’ll just go to a nearby park and have a picnic and lounge around outdoors?
If you are able make plans such as these, you must have some resources. You have access to transportation. You can afford to put gas in your car. You have visions of a world beyond your immediate environment. You can take time off from your job. You have energy after working all week so you can enjoy time away.
I love taking time away from my community…even with a day trip to a town 60 miles away. I remember how astounded I was when I asked a homeless guy whom I’d gotten to know fairly well if he had special plans for the weekend. He said, “Yes, I’m going out of town.”
I asked, “Oh, where are you going?”
“I’m headed to Fountain inn.” What surprised me is that Fountain Inn is only about twenty miles away and is considered a bedroom community of Greenville, my hometown.
That dialogue made me aware that so much of what I take for granted is not available to people with few resources. There are people in my community who have never been more than 10 miles from home. They will never eat in any of the renowned restaurants downtown, unless they happen to work there. They have not shopped at the shopping centers in the suburbs. And even though the beach is only three hours away, some people in our community will never see it.
We can still enjoy our time away from home. And we can also be aware that many things we enjoy are not possible for some of our neighbors. Maybe then, we’ll be more active in trying to improve the opportunities for our neighbors. Image


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Create a good rather than eliminate an evil

Try to create a good rather than eliminate an evil.

When we try to do something good, we often discover that we have unintended consequences.  In our efforts to do good, we create a negative underbelly.

Getting rid of segregation was a great thing to do. Very few people believed that “separate but equal” worked. Many good people lost their lives in trying to change an oppressive system. Others suffered jail time and certainly fear as they worked to right an institutional evil.

However, some of the people whom the change agents were trying to help were hurt in the process. For example, I became friends with an African-American woman who had been elected president of the senior class of her high school the year that integration came to her school district.  Rather than being able to serve as the president with all the privileges and responsibilities that entailed, she had to go to a previously all white high school where she was not wanted. Her former high school had been turned into an integrated middle school.

After all these years, she still harbored grief and anger at what had happened to her. I don’t know if anything could have been done differently but in eliminating an evil, she had been harmed.

Some black business people were also harmed because they lost their customer base.

When we want to do good, let’s try to look at the unintended consequences and try to reduce them as much as possible. Let’s create a good rather than eliminate an evil.


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Vista House Visit

Tonight I will meet with Furman University students who are living this summer in intentional Christian community at Vista House. I always enjoy my time with these students, even though the group changes yearly.  Tonight I’ve been asked to talk about my own context, journey and ministry as well as to facilitate a conversation about the first seven chapters in Loving Our Neighbor: A Thoughtful Approach to Helping People in Poverty.

So, I’ll tell them about how I believe I was called to ministry at the age of nine but at that time, women in my denomination were not ordained to ministry. I thought I might become a missionary but after having a couple of international exchange students live with us during high school, I realized that living on a foreign mission field was not my call. So I decided to become a teacher and marry a minister.

In that plan, I became a secondary math teacher and married a seminary student. My way of following God’ call did not end as I expected but I learned valuable lessons for life. I taught in public school for only two years.  While married to a minister, I learned firsthand the joys and challenges of being in parish mnistry. I also learned many other life lessons which helped in my work later at United Ministries. And I experienced the privilege and responsibility of motherhood. When my husband decided to pursue hospital chaplaincy, I was no longer the wife of the minister of the Presbyterian Church in the community.  My master plan was shaken to the core.

After my husband’s year-long chaplaincy training, I was offered the chance to do a basic unit of Clinical Pastoral Education. With NO seminary education, I took the opportunity and one year later entered seminary, thinking the whole time I was preparing for small church ministry.

Then I’ll tell the students about how God pushed me to United Ministries after graduation, even though I couldn’t imagine how I could talk all the time about taking care of the least of these. God proved to have a sense of humor in that I began part-time in October, became full-time in January, and was named Executive Director in May, a role I held for twenty-four years. My time at United Ministries lasted almost thirty years with the last five years spent in developing Our Eyes Were Opened. I still do some contract work for the organization.  God also was very evident in the painful process of divorce and the joyous celebration of a second marriage.

As the story progresses, I’ll talk about how Our Eyes Were Opened grew to became an independent corporation and how I began writing books.

 Then we’ll move into discussion about issues raised in Loving Our Neighbor.  I’ll explain how the book grew out of all those questions I was asked while at United Ministries  such as how to begin a direct aid ministry, or what to do when a person approaches you on the street asking for money, or how to work effectively with a family living in poverty. I’ll explain that the first chapters were originally sermons preached on very familiar passages such as the Beatitudes or Micah’s words of what the Lord requires. All the passages have themes of social justice even though some people may not have seen that as obvious, at first.  We’ll talk about some of the issues raised in the “Servant or Sucker” chapter.

By now the really fun part where everyone joins the discussion should be happening.  I love hearing students’ questions and challenging myself to try to answer them with integrity and thoughtfulness.  Being able to engage with eager, searching, committed young people is a real privilege. I’m looking forward to this evening.

Loving Our Neighbor is available at iuniverse.com, at online retailers, and at Ten Thousand Villages in Greenville, SC.