3) Get your hands dirty.

<– 2) Give up the word “deserve.” Home 4) Invest your own money. –>

There is no substitute for personal, hands-on, sustained contact with the poor.

Do not use the state as a proxy.  Do it yourself.

Build relationships.  Acquire poor friends.

When I was in high school, a local church, community-oriented, in a distressed neighborhood, sponsored once-a-month work days for youth from affluent areas to come in and do service projects in the ‘hood.  I only went twice.  One day some of us painted a stranger’s kitchen.  I didn’t see the point, and to this day I still don’t.  I wanted to know these people.

My current pastor calls events like that “drive-bys,” one-shot activities that finally require next to nothing of the donor and serve mainly to let him or her feel good.  Momentary warm fuzzies.  Nothing much really is done for the poor.  Nor does the donor learn anything.

Suppertime at the shelter where I stay lets me see two kinds of volunteers.  Now, all of the “programmers,” those enrolled in the year-long residential drug treatment program, have work assignments.  Some are assigned to work in the kitchen.  They normally serve us supper day after day — except when the volunteers come.

Sometimes the volunteers are celebrities, and epitomize the “drive by:” here once a year, lots of press photo ops, TV coverage, supper normally gets drastically time-changed to convenience them; and then it’s bye-bye until next year’s media event.

Related:  Celebrities, go home!

Then there are the drive-bys, for example a sorority who may come in and do it one time, never again.

In contrast are the women who serve us on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Two separate teams; I don’t know if they know each other.  But one crew has been coming on Tuesdays, every Tuesday, and the other on Thursdays, every Thursday; as long as I’ve been there, which so far has been seven years.  They know us.  That’s a commitment.

Our church garden is maintained significantly by a team from a church of a different denomination, in an affluent suburb, who come in and spend hours on Saturdays — every Saturday.  Been doing it for years.  They are a large part of our garden ministry.

The man who writes the blog “Ends and Beginnings” changed churches.  He now attends a church that serves the homeless.

Do that, or the like.

I would be remiss if I failed to advise you about what you’re in for.

I have lived now in total immersion in poverty for more than a decade.  The following are observations, not judgments.

The world of degradation is a universe unto itself, with as many different levels as in the world of joy.  Depending on exactly where you go, you are likely to encounter disproportionate numbers of these kinds of people:

Defiant, infantile, ungrateful, entitled, resentful, malcontent, vandals and criminals; active addicts, mentally retarded, cognitively impaired,[1] emotionally disturbed, schizophrenic, bipolar, psychotic, personality disordered; “differently abled,” grossly disfigured, morbidly obese; ugly in appearance, ugly in speech, ugly in attitudes, ugly in conduct.  Folk who are enamored of turmoil and busy themselves destroying their own bootstraps.

People who live in continuous crisis as a result of their own choices.

People who steal from the homeless.

Special needs adults: Special needs children become special needs adults.

Related:   A hidden epidemic.

For their lives to change, they must do for themselves the same as you must do for yourself, the same as I must do for myself; as I set forth in the first portion of this post.


[1]Cognitive impairment can take any of many forms.  Bobby’s comes from having lost a big chunk of his brain in a motorcycle accident.  He’s still surprisingly bright, but also tells me about his delusions.

<– 2) Give up the word “deserve.” Home 4) Invest your own money. –>

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