The “Issue”

Written by cycleguy on October 20th, 2010

So do you remember when the Y2K crisis was all the rage?  People were hunkering down, going to great lengths to prepare for what many thought would be the “end of the world” (at least the computer world) as we knew it.  Then more recently 2012 was all the rage.  Based on some kooky prophecies and some “opportunists”, all this stuff was brought out about the Mayan calendar, Nostradamus, and other (what I consider) non-sensical junk.  Sadly, we have a much bigger issue to deal with.  And this issue is right at our front door and/or back door.

I suspect by now many of you are probably thinking, “He is going to say AIDS.”   And you know what?  You could/would be right.  The AIDS pandemic is bringing down many houses of cards these days.  But I have something else in mind.  But first let me tell you a story:

I grew up in West Mifflin, PA, a suburb of Pittsburgh.  My grandfather worked in the steel mills as a welder.  My father worked on the railroad as a clerk until he was laid off.  He was unemployed for several years and my mother went to work at a mom-and-pop grocery store called Algeri’s.  Eventually, my (great)aunt paid for my dad to go to Pitt and study computers.  This was when computers were as big as a house and housed in a room that could freeze your you-know-what off.  He eventually went to work for Irwin Works, a steel mill he drove close to an hour to get to.  This was in the late ’50s/early ’60s when the mills were blowing smoke 24 hours a day/7 days a week.   Black smoke filled the air.  Many were flush in green stuff and began to buy, buy, buy.  Trying to raise 3 boys (soon to be 4) was no easy task and so mom hunted for bargains.  It wasn’t easy but going to WalMart wasn’t an option back then.  Neither was a mall (they didn’t exist).  So we would go to the downtown streets of McKeesport, PA to shop.  Shoes at Samuel’s.  Glasses at Dr. Braverman’s.  Clothes at Gimbels (thanks to my aunt).  And while we were at it-walking from store to store outside- a healthy dose of reality, least to my young eyes.  Beggars on the corner with their cups asking for help.  After being told to quit staring several times I got the hint: look away and keep walking.  It wasn’t because my mom was heartless…far from it.  She would have given the coat off her back if it was up to her.  Sadly enough: she didn’t have it to give.  She often wore out-of-tune- clothing so we could wear clothes.  But she also taught us a lesson-one that I hope I have never forgotten: while you may be down-and-out and may not have the finest and the best, there is always someone worse than you.  Be grateful.  Be appreciative.  Be sympathetic not critical. Be empathetic if you can.  But never forget “there but for the grace of God go I.”  (Those weren’t her exact words but you get the drift I am sure).

That brings me to the point of this post and one that John Berger (quoted on page 95 of The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearn) makes: “The twentieth-century consumer economy has produced the first culture for which a beggar is a reminder of nothing.” It is true that AIDS is for real a pandemic.  But so is poverty.  While I may not have always had what others had, I had a roof over my head, a full belly (of government surplus food), and clothes on my body.  You don’t have to go half way around the world to know there are many who do not have that today. I admit some skepticism when I see people standing on street corners with signs (especially after expose’s of them).  But there are real people with real hurts.  How much of that am I missing?

I guess I need to ask you today: how aware are you of poverty around you?  More importantly: what are you or do you plan to do about it?

This is part of the book discussion of The Hole In Our Gospel by Richard Stearns, hosted by Jason and Sarah.  You can purchase the book here or here for a special price.   Please visitJason’s blog for the widget to catch the other great posts.


37 Comments so far ↓

  1. Toby says:

    I guess this would be a perfect opportunity for me to say I’m doing this, this, this and that, but whatever I give, it’s never enough.
    Sometimes I get a superiority complex and think I can fix it all…..alone, by giving to everyone asking for help. The truth is, deep down, I’m a pessimist who thinks poverty will NEVER change because society is too self-absorbed to worry about what isn’t in their backyard. I don’t know the answer…..because it’s so complex, but it makes me angry…..really angry. Every Thursday I’m angry that it’s even necessary to “remind” people about Compassion.
    In the end, God soothes the anger. Although not ALL kids are sponsored, SOME kids are being sponsored, which is better than the alternative of NONE.

    • cycleguy says:

      Toby: I can sense our frustration with the “never” change thought. It is hard to see things changing, at least in the way we think. I also know of your passion for Compassion. Some are better than none. Thanks for your response.

  2. Tom Raines says:

    I can just give what I do have. Unfortunately, due to feeding my own lusts I am struggling financially. I have made plenty of money but just fell to my desires for more and more stuff. So as I prepare for a garage sale this weekend, Bill you remind me I have TONS to give to those who have nothing. There are many people that can benefit from what I perceive as “clutter”. God forgive me for my lusts of consumption and open my eyes to where I can share your love and what I do have. Bill you have touched my soul this morning and I thank you! Have a giving day.

    • cycleguy says:

      Tom: I suspect we could all fall into that same category. I know I can. I have no retirement and cannot contribute to it until I get some financial things in order. it all has come from lust of things. You challenge me this morning. Thanks.

  3. Jim F. says:

    You are dead on with Poverty being a real problem in the world. I have seen it first hand in travels around the world. I see the blame of poverty squaring being on the church of Jesus Christ because we have not done what the Scripture tells us.

    With that I see we the churches need to pick up the slack and take care of the widows and orphans. How do we do this? I am not sure but I know that we do not have to reinvent the wheel because I am sure there are those who are out there modeling it – it is just a matter of finding them and begin to put on foot in front of the other.

    Excellent post and challenge for the church.

    • cycleguy says:

      Thanks Jim. I think you are right that we need to find those who are already doing it and not reinvent the wheel. Thanks for coming by.

  4. *~Michelle~* says:

    WOW….great thought provoking post.

    I try to do what I can…and although it is not much as I too am affected by this economy (who isn’t?)…..I try to remember what Mother Teresa has said.

    “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”

  5. *~Michelle~* says:

    HEY! We were visiting each other at the same time!

    *insert Twilight Zone music*


  6. Robin Rane' says:

    I love this Bill. Love it. Tom was talking about love on his blog this morning and that’s what it boils down to I think. I live in the deep south, the Bible belt…a really RED state. There is a tendency to look at those in need like free-loaders and lazy…I’ve been guilty of this in the past.
    But when someone close to me fell on very hard times (we have 10% unemployment here ) and had to get help from the government it changed my perspective completely.

    Here’s my bottom line on this…if I err Father let it be on the side of love…

    GREAT post. I’m going to look into this book. Hugs~

    • cycleguy says:

      Robin: Thanks for the comment. I agree with your bottom line: I would rather err on the side of love than crassness or unconcern. Thanks for coming by.

  7. Jan Frame says:

    Wow….this is a very powerful blog Bill. Getting a glimpse into your childhood brought tears to my eyes, what a special mom you had. Poverty….I see it around me everyday here in school, kids who are on free/reduced lunches and this may be the only decent meal they eat for the day, kids who don’t have the “finer” clothes & shoes….kids who live in broken homes, with grandparents, a guardian or landing at a friend’s house, hoping to be able to sleep there for the night. Poverty isn’t just on the street corners in big cities, it’s right here in small towns, in our schools, our churches, our workplaces. We have a small church in this county who helps as much as they can with kids needs, and family needs with clothing & food. I am very blessed to work in a school corporation who cares and we bring in clothing, school supplies or whatever else we can and make sure kids get these things. It’s not much, but hopefully our small contributions will help make a bit of a difference. I just have to pray that God gives me an unselfish heart to help others more instead of buying more & more for myself.
    Great blog Bill. Thought provoking as always.
    Have a great day.

    • cycleguy says:

      Jan: I am sure you see that probably more than me since you work in a school. I know we have our share of kids in the system who need help. What is sad is when schools care more than churches. I hope that changes to show what the church is all about. Thanks for the comment and hope you have a good day.

  8. Michael says:

    I wasn’t really aware of it until we moved from Ohio to Texas. I was able to see the difference in levels.

    Don’t get me wrong, there is much poverty in TX because of the influx of people here, but seeing the wealth here made me realize the poverty elsewhere…if that makes sense.

  9. What am I going to do? Sincerely Love.

    What am I going to do? Help and not just talk about helping.

    What am I going to do? My part.

    We may not be able to save everybody…but we can make a difference. No one who experiences the Love of God through us as we reach out and provide a helping hand to lift them out of despair and death will complain about our inability.

    Together with God we are able.

    It’s time to get out of the pew and into action.

  10. Well said Bill…I grew up in a poor home (financially and in other ways)but not like the poverty I have been made aware of lately. May the Father move on our hearts and direct our hands to the task of helping others.

  11. Sarah Salter says:

    We didn’t have much when I was little… But you know what? I never realized it. You know why? Because there was always somebody there to slip a bag of groceries onto our back step or a bag of hand-me-down clothes into the backseat of our car. We lived in a small community where people cared about each other and our needs always got met. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. We’re supposed to pay attention to each other and see each other’s needs and meet each other’s needs. But somehow, our worlds begin to shrink… Our prayer becomes, “God bless me & my wife, our son & his wife, us four and no more.” But I thank God for this discussion and this community that opens our eyes again to the needs around us. Thanks for being part of that community!

    • cycleguy says:

      I didn’t realize it either Sarah. As we get older and look back we can see the sacrifices our parents or others made for us. I can now. This discussion and reading all the other perspectives has really been good for me. thanks for allowing me to part of it. 🙂

  12. jeff harris says:

    Having taken an 80% cut in pay to be the CFO of a private not-for-profit organization that is focused exclusively on issues of Poverty in America I feel I should respond. First of all I am very glad I made the change.
    There is a lot an individual can and should do to assist in giving comfort to people who find themselves with less than enough resources to be self sufficient.
    First and foremost is understanding coupled with a huge dose of compassion. While there is no doubt some people work the system, have made bad choices, are fools,etc., the vast majority simply are in a trap that they do not have the resources to reverse. The hidden rules of survival, the needs, and the differences between generational and situational poverty are not things that middle class common sense easily understands.
    Religions sometimes adopt idiotic precepts which tend to feed the problem rather than help. Mother Theresa was always very vocal in trying to persuade any one she could that condoms and birth control were far worse than Aids or overpopulation.
    There is a network of Community Action Agencies throughout the United States that deal with poverty exclusively. They were set up in the mid 60’s at the beginning of President Johnson’s “War on Poverty”.
    I would suggest contacting the organization in your area for information or education materials on the needs for your particular area.
    I would also encourage every voter to prioritize your candidates views on poverty in deciding whom to vote for.
    Children in poverty have not made bad choices, been fools, worked the system, or deserve the lack of resources that politicians can divert away from them and give instead to louder voices of self-interest.

    • cycleguy says:

      Jeff: thanks for sharing that bit of information with me and consequently all those reading. It is really good to know. I especially appreciated your suggestions at the end. Thanks for coming by. I knew you served food but didn’t know to what extent.

  13. jay sauser says:

    I find myself going back and forth between doing good for those in poverty “here” locally and “there” globally. Either way, my wife and I try to do whatever we can for those who we can do it for. It won’t ever be enough, but I believe it is what God has called us to.

    • cycleguy says:

      jay: I know what you mean. i sometimes feel like a pinball. The important thing is that whether near or far you do something. thanks for visiting my blog. I posted on your About page. will also put you in my Google Reader so I can read more of what you write.

  14. jasonS says:

    Excellent, Bill. When you mentioned Y2K and the 2012 stuff, I thought about how we distract ourselves with things that are “out there” (or in fact, not) so as to miss what is happening right under our noses. Thanks for the reminder and the challenge!

    • cycleguy says:

      Jason: thanks. distraction is the perfect word when we put our minds elsewhere on things that don’t matter. Thanks for coming by.

  15. Pinky says:

    It really saddens me that we have become so worried about people scamming us…..because for all the scams there are 10 in need.Or we judge people. My friends Mother always taught her to give to beggars(and they had NO money, lived in federal housing) but she always said, “It could be Jesus”. I have never forgotten that. Just a thought……

    • cycleguy says:

      Pinky: I wish I wasn’t so cynical about people scamming. I reckon I have seen it and been used once too often. still not an excuse though. Perhaps I need to be praying for a softer heart. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  16. Jaycee (E.A) says:

    Ike posted a comment on my most recent post, it was an excerpt from a book and I really enjoyed it.

    “I fear there are some Christians among you to whom Christ cannot say ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.’ Your haughty dwelling arises in the midst of thousands who have scarce a fire to warm themselves at and have but little clothing to keep out the biting frost, and yet you never darkened their door. You heave a sigh perhaps at a distance, but you do not visit them. Ah my dear friends, I am concerned for the poor, but more for you. I know not what Christ will say to you on the great day. You seem to be Christians, and yet you care not for his poor. Oh, what a change will pass upon you as you enter the gates of heaven! You will be saved, but that will be all. There will be no abundant entrance for you. ‘He that soweth sparingly shall reap sparingly.’

    And I fear that there may be many hearing me who may know well that they are not Christians, because they do not love to give. To give largely and liberally, not grudging at all, requires a new heart. An old heart would rather part with its life-blood than its money. Oh my friends, enjoy your money. Make the most of it. Give none of it away. Enjoy it quickly, for I can tell you, you will be beggars throughout eternity.”

    Robert Murray McCheyne, Works (New York, 1847), II:482.

    • cycleguy says:

      Jaycee: good quote. Isn’t it amazing how sometimes a quote from so long ago is still relevant? Thanks for taking the time to swing by and comment. Love hearing from you.

  17. lindaM says:

    Hi Bill,
    I experienced something of this issue of poverty yesterday. I grew up in a single parent home with my sister and mother.
    While I was driving to the library yesterday I saw a car driving ahead of me with a small donut spare tire on the back. I could see a young woman driving and a child in the backseat. That automatically rings a bell in me that says, ‘ask if you can help her get a good tire for the car’. I’ve now opened a door for short term ministry.
    Her 7 year old son was quite sure that my nearly new tires in my garage will fit their car. ‘you have tires?’ he says. He and his mom just moved here 2 months ago from another province to this area.

    do I have all the money in the world? no. Do I have some money? yes. could I easily spend this money on my legal fees or other things? yes. In my mind, yesterday was a chance to do something good. To help. I took up the opportunity. I hate seeing young single moms and their kids struggling.

    The last couple of mornings I have put in a small amount of purposful scheduled prayer time into my morning routine. I’ve avoided this and struggled with doing this for a long time. Too many other things I wanted to do with that time. I had a different routine going that seemed to be working well, which was reading my Bible.
    We need to step out in small steps where we feel God wants us to act or do something. We need to get past the ‘wishing stage’ with God. We want to follow and obey the promptings and urgings of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

    • cycleguy says:

      Linda: it is wonderful that you were open enough to the Holy Spirit to listen and obey. We need that openness more often. I believe she will be blessed (as will you) by your generosity.

  18. herbhalstead says:

    This post is close to my heart, Bill. I’ve battled the “never-ending-story” issue like Toby. Two things that God convicted me of: First, God calls me to action where he calls me – the scope of the problem is not the issue. Second, God’s use of my contribution is not limited by the size of my contribution.

  19. Jim Marr says:

    It is a constant struggle in my heart to reconcile the blessings of God with those in great need. We know that we will always have the poor among us, and most of us by the world’s standards are “rich” in many ways. I have to guard against wanting to make the problems go away with some money. In many cases, that is a solution, but we must also be willing to give of our time. I pray for God’s guidance in every situation knowing that I could easily give away everything I have and then I’d be the one needing help. So it is a matter of balance in giving where the Lord leads, being free to give, but also know when NOT to give.


    • cycleguy says:

      Great point Jim. It is much easier to want to make things go away by money rather than involvement. It is a matter of balance, finding out what God wants. I like the idea of being free to give if that is what He wants but to also know when not to. Thanks for coming by my blog. Will check yours out.