As Christmas approaches, I tend to think about world affairs in terms of the Christian values I grew up believing. I look back over the year, and forward to the next year. I even make some predictions, not of the wheeooooeee type, but based on my analysis of events and conditions in society and in the world.
I read this morning that Ireland has mailed letters to about 6000 unemployed Irish, asking them to move to other EU nations. This strikes me as wrong on at least two fronts. The first is that as a Catholic nation, which prohibits birth control, the nation helped create the long term unemployed and owes them better than asking them to leave their home. The second is that the other EU nations have their own unemployment problems and might not welcome 6000 unemployed immigrants.
The day before I had read that Google (or amazon) was looking to replace clerks with robots. Prior to this, I have read pieces saying that we will now permanently have a higher rate of unemployment. I have also read that those who have been unemployed longer than six months are now considered unemployable. My Christian values tell me that if society cannot offer people jobs, it should, at a minimum, leave them their dignity, and provide them with life's necessities. This has made the Christian right's position of blaming the unemployed for their condition, and blaming it on laziness and unwillingness to work, simply unfathomable and immoral.
Love, and charity, Jesus himself, require us to treat the unemployables with respect, and dignity, not scorn and the cloak of invisibility that descends when we assume people "don't want to work." Honestly, how many of us can say that we would keep looking for a job after we are told by agencies and employers that we have been unemployed too long to be considered? With dwindling financial reserves, how much would any of us continue to expend on transportation, clothing expenses (even if just cleaning and pressing), printing up and sending out resumes? Who do you think an employer would hire -- a 32 year old with children, or someone in their late forties or early fifties with health issues?
Do we just toss people away, like disposable coffee cups and razors? Do we just say "I'll pray for you?' When we say it, how often do we actually pray for a solution to the suffering and the stress? Once? Daily until we hear the person's situation has improved?
Into this walks Pope Francis, who is the first Pope since I became conscious of the existence of a Pope, which was the installation of Pope John XXII, who walks and talks as I imagine Jesus did, or close to it. What does the Christian Right do? Attack him as "communist" like "Obama." I heard someone mention that Pope Francis was not even born in the United States! Hmm, I'm not Catholic, and I know that NONE of them throughout history were born in the United States. So how is that a relevant comment? Is it just a stupid one?
For me, the greatest blessings have always been the people who come into my life. Some of them stay. Some of them go. A few became lifelong friends; others were around for a few years. Many of them are momentary or casual encounters, such as retail employees, clerks in offices, medical personnel at hospitals.
I have blogged before about two of these people. Tonight I want to write about another one. He works part-time at the ALCO Store here in Houston. He also works at Auto Zone.Nothing wrong with his work ethic!
Twice now, during my shopping trips I have had the opportunity to talk with him. He's a young Black with children. I haven't asked his age, but I'd guesstimate it in the 27-32 age range. He's cheerful, considerate and extremely helpful. Tonight I ventured into ALCO alone, so he helped me take my purchase out to my car and load it in. We were chatting about one of the items I bought, and I discovered he was born with a heart murmur. I told him of losing my father at age 46, just days after my 10th birthday and how it tore my life apart. I begged him not to eat so much salt, since heart disease in Blacks takes more of them at earlier ages than it does Caucasians. Then we chatted a bit more about nutrition and its importance in combating heart disease.
That conversation took a glissade into living each day as if it were your last. We both felt that that attitude goes a long way toward putting things into perspective. It's very hard to remain depressed, angry, or selfish if one asks one's self each day "If I die today, how will people remember me?" It's also hard to rush through life oblivious to others and to the beauties that lay around every corner, whether that beauty is the laughter of a child, a carefully tended flower garden in a run-down area of town, or something else.
"I try to do God's work every day," he said. Now in one of my smart mouthed moments, or with someone who knows my warped sense of humor well, I might have retorted "So what's wrong with God today that He can't do his own work? He call in sick again?" Instead, I commented that we never know just what it is that God wants us to do every day, or in our lives. We may think we know, but only God knows. Maybe it's a kind word to a stranger badly in need of kindness, something seemingly inconsequential. The conversation ended with him telling me to take care of myself because, he said, "I love seeing you up in here, moving and smiling. You have a beautiful smile."
Each of us has an opportunity to be a blessing to someone each and every day. It need not be a grand gesture. Nor need it wait until Christmas when one is feeling generous. Hold the door open for a person in a wheelchair, even there is someone pushing them. (You might be surprised how hard it is to open a door and push someone through, even the person being pushed is helping.) Take a couple of cans of food to the local food bank every week. People have to eat all year long. Order an extra packet of vegetable seeds and send them to a community garden in an "urban desert." If you see someone at the gas station driving an old beat up car, wearing old clothes, pay for an extra gallon of gas for them. You can think of a 1000 ways to do little things for people, at little to no cost to you. Suspend your judgment about whether they "deserve" it. Do you think God withholds His grace because "(s)he didn't deserve it?" If that question gives you a problem, perhaps you could look up "grace" in a dictionary and rethink your answer.