A Word About The Poor

I recently saw a post on Facebook that caught my attention in a special way.  I don’t recall who posted it and I don’t know anything about anybody who had anything to do with producing it.  The post in question appeared to be British, and was a video.  In this video a young man was wearing a sandwich board with a very offensive message written on it, and there is no way to sugar coat that message and still convey the power of the overall post.  I could report that the sandwich board said “SCREW THE POOR”, or I could write that the message was “F___ THE POOR”.  I could say it in Spanish too:  “CHINGA LOS POBRES”, or Latin; “PEDICABO EGO AUTEM POIR”, and if I really want to be obtuse in Chinese; “TA MA DE QUONGREN”.  In this manner I could tell you what the board said but that would not tell you what the video meant to expose, which is entirely wrapped up in exactly what was written on that board, and that message was “FUCK THE POOR”.

The person wearing the sign was a young white guy.  He was walking around at what appeared to be a bus station or some other sort of node of public transportation.  People were walking by and some of them were profoundly upset by his message.  I couldn’t really hear their comments, but by the expressions on their faces and the few words that I could read on their lips the passersby were telling the young man that, among other things, he could go f___ himself.  The clip went on for one or two minutes, which seemed like a very long time if you were watching it.  Finally the scene faded to black while a well-dressed young woman was jawing away in the man’s face.

The scene faded back in a few seconds but it was instantly clear that things had dramatically changed.  The same young man was now wearing what was very nearly the same sandwich board but with one very big difference.  Now the sign shouted out in big capital letters “HELP THE POOR”.  Same location, perhaps the same people, but clearly a different response.  No anger, no outrage, no getting into the young man’s face.  In fact, the young man might as well have not been there.  Eye contact was assiduously avoided.  People flowed around the young man like the water of a river flowing around the concrete base of a great bridge.  The young man couldn’t have found more solitude if he had scaled a Himalayan peak and found a vacant cave up there.

Now comes the hard part.  What does all of this mean?  Clearly, when the sign just came out and said “F— THE POOR”, people were stung by that harsh message and were moved to seriously reprimand the bearer of that same harsh message, but when the sign called out to help the poor, the obvious message sent by the passing throng was “F— THE POOR”.

Is it that we don’t really care about the real poor people in our midst and around the globe?  Maybe we love the poor when they are an abstraction; two urchins under the cloak of the Ghost of Christmas Present, or a family fleeing the Oklahoma dust to find their fortune in the golden fields of the Golden State.  “Wherever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there—” says Tom Joad while relatively well-off moviegoers munch popcorn in comfortable theater seats and Henry Fonda, a great and deserving actor, deposits very nice checks for his work on Steinbeck’s classic story,

Somehow, when the reality of poverty confronts us real-time and in the flesh it is less glamorous and less likely to start a crusade.  The bum holding a sign at the freeway offramp is smoking, which is an expensive habit, no doubt drinks too much alcohol, and smells bad in the bargain.  The couple on the bus, him scrawny and shaggy and her overweight, wearing her pajamas and sporting a poorly done tattoo of a red rose on the top of her right boob, using “colorful” language as they ride to within walking distance of wherever they are going.  The old guy sitting on the porch of a house on the “poor side of town” while a profanity-laced argument is heard coming out of the open windows.  The poor can be a much more uncomfortable commodity in the flesh than they are in the abstract, and perhaps that’s why our charity for them usually stops just before we actually meet them.

Oh, what a radical step it would be to actually make myself vulnerable and available to the poor!  The “needy” is one of the names that we give the poor and a good name for them it is.  The poor really do need.  They need resources, and if I engage the poor those resources, or at least some of them, must come directly from me.  The poor need to be acknowledged as having value, and I may not be able honestly to see any value in them if I only see them through my comfortable, material, middle class eyes.  It won’t take them long to know if i am faking it either.

The poor need governments that will help them rather than warehouse them in prisons, control them so that they don’t pester “good folks”, or divert effort, time and money to enrich patrons of government.  A person uncomfortable with too close a proximity to the real poor may at least demand that government tailor its delivery of services more towards those who really need them the most and away from those who are doing just fine already.  I am not writing about soaking the rich; only about not deferring to them first, and all American governments do that to one degree or another

So how do we move beyond this state of loving and defending the poor in the abstract and ignoring them in the flesh and blood?  I do not know the answer to that question, or should I say that I don’t know the millions of answers to that question, as the answer is undeniably complex.  When does help lead to dependency?  When does helping hurt?  How do you know that your help is genuinely needed and when you are being scammed?  Is your help being appreciated?  Does that matter?  The list of questions is a very long one and I can’t answer any one of them for you.  Hell, I can’t even answer most of them for myself.

But nobody should be avoiding those questions, and Christians frankly are commanded by God not to avoid them.  I will not bother you with the Bible verses that refer to this but if you are a Christian you know them, or you should.  If you are not a Christian, something in your heart tells you that it is wrong to ignore the poor.  Even if your rational mind says that their poverty is their problem, you still would hesitate before verbalizing what was written all over the signboard in the first scene of the video mentioned above.

Helping the poor will be an endless and oftentimes thankless endeavor.  That cannot prevent us from trying however.  The solution to the problem of the poor begins with me, and you, and you over there, and there is no hope if I/we check out of the game without ever even getting into it.

Merry Christmas To All

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  That is my wish for everybody whom I know, and for those whom I do not know as well.  It seems like a bit of a cheesy formality, this ritual annual invocation; something one does reflexively with increasing frequency as we finish digesting our enormous Thanksgiving dinner and plow through the last shopping days until we once again stress our biliary systems, and also the bathroom scales, to the max with our equally enormous Christmas repast.  I have been as guilty of mumbling this mantra as has the next person but it is my wish and intention to change that sad fact and trade in my insipid yuletide insincerity for a true and genuine wish for a Merry Christmas and a happy new year to each and all.

But first, what do I mean by these words “Merry Christmas”?  Well, what I do not mean is too many presents, too much shopping, too much food or too much of the adult beverage of choice, followed by too many aspirin the next morning.  My vision of a merry Christmas is born of my Christian faith.  The foundation of my Christmas is the birth, on whatever date that it actually happened, of Jesus of Nazareth, who was/is God come in the flesh to rescue humanity from the separation and hell that we had initiated by screwing things up in the first place.  This act by God was an act of sacrificial love, in which he gave us what we desperately needed but had no chance of obtaining by our own efforts.  God did this out of an abiding love for his children and never thought about what it would cost him.

In the process of doing this God lived together with men and women on Earth, first in his family with his father, Joseph, and his mother, Mary, his brother James and other siblings.  Later, God lived with his twelve disciples and a circle of friends, both men and women whom he treated with an equality that was shocking at the time and which should be a lesson to us today, at least the Christians among us should recognize this and strive to imitate our God.  And in the end God gave us the present that was unobtainable in any other way.  Hung as a bloody, mutilated, and finally stone cold dead ornament on a ghastly Roman Christmas tree on Calvary Hill, God gave us the gift of reconciliation between himself and humankind.  What an amazing gift!

This was an incalculable gift and deserves to be commemorated daily, rather than once each year, but once per year is how we have chosen to recognize it, so at this time I wish my family, friends, acquaintances and in fact the whole world a merry Christmas.  But what do I mean by “Merry Christmas,” and how can I wish it to my family and friends and valued acquaintances who are not Christian, who recognize spiritual paths different than my own, or no spiritual path at all?  Can I wish a Merry Christmas to people who are not Christian?  What does a baby lying in a feed trough in a stable in Bethlehem two thousand years ago have to do with my friend who is Muslim, or my Buddhist or secular materialist friends, and I assure you that those friends of mine are real?  Is my wish for them to enjoy a Merry Christmas just another example of the cheesy ritual that I mentioned in the opening words of this post?

The answer is “No”, and I will be glad to explain why.  Jesus – God – did not come to the world to bless Christians.  When Jesus was born there were no Christians, and when the angels sang “Peace on Earth, good will towards men”, those men were Roman pagans, Judean Hebrews, Persian Zoroastrians, Indian Hindus, Chinese Confucianists, Taoists, and Buddhists, Aztec worshippers of Quetzalcoatl and North American Lakota who worshipped Mother Earth and Father Sky.  The biblical text just says “Peace on Earth, good will towards men”.  That’s it.  I will be happy to say it as God’s angels said it:  Peace on Earth, good will toward men.  All of them.  Merry Christmas.

And how am I going to do this?  First and foremost by wishing that you love your family and friends and others as much as you can.  You may not receive love back in the same measure; that’s how it turned out for God when he was here in the flesh, but love anyway.  You have the choice to love or not love.  Which one is most likely to feed your soul?  Do not wait to be loved first, and then dole out the appropriate amount of love in return.  Love first, love earnestly, and love regardless of something other than love given back to you in return.  And when you do this you should be open to receive the love that may return to you, which might come from the most unexpected sources.  Perhaps love will be returned by your family members or others close to you.  I hope so.  Or maybe, when you least expect it, love will come from people who you never laid eyes upon before in your life, who flit into your line of sight and bless you in ways that you could never predict.  Things like that happen all the time, but we don’t notice it or don’t allow it because it doesn’t fit our busy schedule.

I will also wish you a Merry Christmas by urging you to share your material blessings, which never give you the real joy that they promise anyway, to people who are hurting and doing without the things they need rather than the things that they play with. Those people may be living in villages without a well for drinking water in Honduras or Borneo, or they might be the elderly couple living down the street who have to decide whether to pay the electric bill so that they can keep their medicines cold in the refrigerator or pay the water bill so that they can bathe and flush the toilet.  These folks are known and can be found if you wish to try and find them.  Bless them with your money, or simply your time and friendship.  It will make you a good deal more merry than will giving your nephew Clarence another sweater that he’ll wear at an Ugly Sweater party two years hence.

Therefore, when I wish you a Merry Christmas, regardless of your spiritual persuasion, I wish you the joy of love given and love received, the way it was between God and humankind on that first Christmas morning.  I wish you the joy of sharing what you have in abundance with those who have no hope of obtaining their bare necessities by their own effort.  If none of these wishes for you are likely to be fulfilled in your immediate future, then I wish that you will take comfort from the love I feel for you; the love of one frail and bent, but not broken, brother to another brother or sister on this confusing and sometimes frightening planet.  I wish you joy, love, comfort and peace.  I wish you these things because I want to wish them.  It makes me merry to wish this for you.  Merry Christmas, my friends.

A Modest Proposal

It has been many months since the American people saw a wave of youthful illegal immigrants break upon our southern border.  Thousands upon thousands of children were swept up in the near vicinity of our borders and were warehoused in whatever large buildings were available to lay down a steel bed, a cot, or a pad on the floor.  There they passed their time, with virtually nothing to do as they sat idly biding their time while politicians fought over why they were here and what to do with them.  These children may still be in those soulless warehouses but we have moved our national attention on to weightier issues; ISIS, the midterm elections, the four-team NCAA football playoffs to name a few, so I don’t really know.

This status somewhere between life and death comes after a nearly two thousand mile trek in which rape is guaranteed, exploitation in all conceivable ways is assured, hunger, thirst, physical abuse and sometimes death are common.  The level of despair endured by parents that would induce them to entrust their precious children to the tender mercies of demonic ‘coyotes’ who run the immigrant railway from Central and South America through Mexico, and who then throw their children at the border like shooting a shotgun, figuring that a few might get through to burnish their coyote credibility, is a level of despair which I cannot even begin to assess.  I would do anything I could to alleviate this level of suffering, and I believe that there is a way that I can suggest to at least try to help some of the sufferers.  I can do that by making the following proposal.

The nation which consistently holds second place for sending immigrants towards ‘El Norte’ is El Salvador.  The reason is easy to see.  Crime and violence and hopelessness are the very bread that Salvadorans eat.  The power of violent street gangs, known as ‘Maras’, is far greater than that of the police and other government agencies which are tasked with ensuring tranquility and an environment in which a parent might raise his or her children and hope to enjoy their children’s families in their old age.  Sudden and purposeless death are regular visitors to Salvadoran households and cleaver and creative ways of dealing out public and painful deaths are common and even recreational activities for the Maras.  The government treats with the gangs in the same manner in which governments normally treat with other governments, and the police and law enforcement establishment are thoroughly corrupted and infiltrated by the Maras.

This is couples with a government which discourages any foreign investors who might be foolish enough to try to engage in honest business (if there is such a thing) in El Salvador.  International business has virtually ceased trying to invest there, and take their business and their money elsewhere.  If I lived in El Salvador, I would try to make it to El Norte too.

My proposal is to examine whether or not it would make sense to offer to the people of El Salvador the opportunity to become an unincorporated territory of the United States in the same manner as Puerto Rico.  Under the U.S. legal system, even with it’s flaws, crime would be challenged head-on and an effective counter to the power of the Maras would at last be visible on the streets.  Realizing that the Maras are attractive to young people because opportunities for advancement are not available in other areas, a revamp of openness to foreign investment, plus investment from a Unites States which would no longer be foreign, would expand job opportunities and give young people jobs which do not include the possibility, nay probability, of dying a violent and premature death.  The infusion of input into the education system to train young people to fill the new jobs would also result in the production of Salvadoran jurists, educators, writers and scientists; people who would use their skills to benefit their people and, beyond them the world.

Is my idea sheer madness?  Possibly.  It is the result however of my revulsion that I feel when I consider the pain which Salvadoran parents must feel when they kiss their children goodbye and send them to hell in order to escape the even greater hell of remaining in El Salvador.  If I have the ability to help somebody and do not help them, I bring judgement upon my own head and richly deserve it.  What do you think?

For the Love of Emma

It’s been about fifteen years or more since the last time that I saw Emma.  I work at a hospital, and although I was usually there in the daytime I was frequently willing to put in overtime to garner a larger paycheck. That usually involved working into the night, and Emma was a housekeeper who worked the evening shift. Emma was older than me and I was older than most of the others there. She was small of stature but was a hard worker. It was evident that Emma had never in her life imagined that anything less was expected of her than that she pulled her own weight.  Emma was efficient and very organized; we knew exactly when to expect her to come through our department and we knew that it would be clean when she was finished.

But there was more to Emma than her efficiency and punctuality.  Emma was the sweetest lady whom I have ever known. The adjective ‘sweet’ is one that gets overused in my opinion  A well-thrown forward pass may be described by the color commentator as ‘sweet’, or a shady business deal conducted behind closed doors may be called a ‘sweet deal’, but those usages of the word sell short it’s true meaning and impact. Emma did not have a mean or angry bone in her body, and treated everyone in our department as if they were a friend or even a child of hers; a beloved child at that. Yes, Emma was a sweet woman.

At quarter ’till ten o’clock her husband, who was already retired, would faithfully show up in the lobby of the hospital to wait for her shift to end.  Unlike Emma, Don was a quiet person who waited patiently for his bride to come to him ready to return to their home after a long shift.  Don never shared much of his life with us but it was clear that he shared all of it with Emma. When Emma walked down the hall carrying her little lunch bag at the end of her shift Don’s eyes would twinkle just a little and his shoulders would straighten a bit. Don would put his hand on Emma’s shoulder and say something into her left ear, low and inaudible to the rest of us, and they would walk out side-by-side to go home.

We all spoke with Emma often because she felt so much like an old friend, but my partner Becky spoke with her more than most. Becky had risen through a difficult early life to carve out a niche for herself in the middle class, and she felt a kinship with Emma that the rest of us who had no such background could not have access to. Emma told Becky that she grew up on a farm/ranch on the edge of a small town in Texas. Some of her family remained on the farm and some made a living in town, but she didn’t really know much about their lives because she hadn’t visited home in thirty years.

Thirty years! Think of how long thirty years is. As of the moment that I write this tale Ronald Reagan was president thirty years ago. The Soviet Union still existed and threatened the U.S. with destruction (and the U.S. returned the favor). Linebackers in the NFL could still sack a quarterback without receiving a penalty. Thirty years is a long time for anything, and it had been thirty long years since Emma had visited her family in Texas.  Emma shared that fact with Becky with an air of acceptance. Poor people don’t get to take vacations and visit family who live over 1,000 miles away.  That’s just how the world works.

Becky shared this news with me and I felt a great sadness; not pity, but sadness for Emma. My family was and still is very important in my life and I couldn’t imagine being without them. Becky and I discussed what a not-sweet deal this was for Emma and we began to cook up a scheme to correct the situation. We would ask everyone in our department; X-Ray. CT, MRI, Ultrasound and Nuclear Medicine, plus the radiologists who read our images, to donate to a fund to send Emma on vacation. We began that very moment by whipping twenty dollar bills out of our wallets and putting them into an envelope in a drawer in our exam room.

It was late in the evening when we began this crusade, and so there were only a few people to whom we could appeal with our plan. The response was reassuring however and we raised nearly one hundred dollars in cash and pledges that first night. Over the next month we approached everyone in the department with our plan and soon we had a bag bulging with fives and tens and twenties, and even more gratifying than that was the fact that we had an entire department that was united in the thrill of doing this act for our Emma.

I can’t remember a time when we were more united as a department. People were talking together in corners, giggling in the halls, and kidding with Emma even more than they usually did. I spoke with Don when we were nearing the number that we felt would be adequate to make our plan work and at first he was reluctant to go along with it, mistaking love for pity. I assured him that we all felt like our lives were made better by Emma’s kind spirit and we simply wanted to repay kindness with kindness and he relented. Don eventually became an active co-conspirator in our project.

Sometimes I was begging for contributions, but most of the time people were tracking me down so that they could throw money at me. The pot grew; three hundred, four hundred, five hundred, up it went. We asked Don when she would be able to take a vacation and he gave us a date.  Becky took a chunk of our bundle and bought two round trip tickets to Dallas-Fort Worth. The money continued to trickle in after that, and when the night came that we were going to spring the surprise we had two tickets and three hundred dollars for spending money amassed in the bag.

The file room was festooned with balloons and ribbons when Emma came to clean that night. Everyone was laying low and watching from behind nearly-closed doors and dark corners when Emma made her appearance.  As usual, she cleaned a few bathrooms first and then angled her cart out of the main hall and into the narrow passage leading to the file room.  Seeing the decorations she exclaimed softly to herself ‘I wonder who all of this was for.”  At that moment Lois, one of our support staff, couldn’t stand it any more and stepped out from behind a long cabinet of medical records and said ‘It’s for you.”

The cat was out of the bag, and so we all came out of our hiding places and stepped noisily into the file room, laughing and smiling and saying ‘Surprise’ and things like that. A moment later Don stepped out from behind a tall bank of fluorescent lights holding medical images and gave Emma’s dumbfounded cheek a kiss. Becky stepped forward and gave Emma the envelope with the tickets and money and said ‘You need a vacation’.

Emma was floored! At first she was uncomfortable; Emma had never taken a handout in her life. Don spoke quietly into her ear, telling her that this wasn’t a handout; this was a gift from people who loved her. Emma teared up a little and wrestled with her emotions as we wrestled with our own, and then found a place of peace with the situation. She began to banter with all of us and accepted, finally, that she was the star of the show. We were not about to allow it to be any other way.

Emma and Don took their vacation, and soon after their return she retired. Emma never said a lot about her trip and we didn’t ask her. The vacation was hers, not ours, and we were happy to let her enjoy her vacation on her own terms. I think it’s possible that we enjoyed her vacation as much as she did. I cannot remember a time when our department more enjoyed each other than when we were focused not on ourselves but instead were focused on doing one good thing for one good woman. I will always remember that as one of the very best times of my life.

To Give or Not To Give

Today as I exited a building in downtown Portland, Oregon, I was confronted by a young woman sitting cross-legged on a street corner holding a sign.  Well, I shouldn’t say “confronted”, perhaps, because she never said a word to me.  In fact, our eyes never really met.  She just sat there, staring at the concrete sidewalk, holding a sign which said “Please help. Evicted from my apartment. Need someplace to stay with my cat”.  After glancing at her sign I walked away, going about my business.  I couldn’t quit thinking about her though, and it is that conflict which I propose to share with you, dear reader.

I do not know this woman from Eve.  I have no idea if she has in fact been evicted from her residence.  I don’t know if she even has a cat.  If she does, the cat was mercifully not with her to be used as a prop.  If I or anyone else was to give her money there is no guarantee whatsoever that it would be used to correct the misfortune which she claimed to have suffered.  There was no rational reason at all why i should give that woman a second thought.

Which is why it makes it strange that she was all that I could think about for the next several minutes.  To begin with, I thought that if she really was in tight financial straights she should call upon her family for relief, as I would do.  I then remembered that many people do not have even remotely functional families, and that this is not an option for everyone.  I also thought that this woman had arrived at her situation by making bad choices and that the answer, instead of sitting on a street corner begging, is to start making good choices.  In that context, giving her money only put a band aid on her wound and enabled her to continue making bad choices.  The full weight of how dreadfully judgemental that thought was had me cringing within a moment and lamenting that I had ever thought it.  I can decide whether or not to give a beggar a few bucks without loading shame on them and guilt on myself.

I then thought about my Christian duty to care for the poor.  Jesus spent a great deal more of His time with the poor than with any other group according to the gospels, and I want to act like Jesus as much as my bent, fallen self can.  In the first century however the people of the town and even in Jerusalem knew the beggars personally and could vouch for their stories, and so guesswork was removed as to who was truly needy and who was a slacker.  We have no teaching from Jesus which says ‘render unto the beggar whether she is a slacker or not”, but we do have Paul writing “If he shall not work, he shall not eat”.  In a small community a person would know into which category a person fell.  In my large urban setting I have not that luxury.

Ultimately the image of a cat in need caused me to decide to give the woman a few bucks, and I know that this end to my story reflects no credit upon me, and I make no attempt to claim any.  The image of a cat (which I never even saw) in need was more compelling to me than the image of that woman, not much more than a girl really, in need.  I know that my sins are forgiven but that doesn’t make them any more palatable, to God or to me.

The Complexities of Social Justice

     I heard a story the other day that I believe is important enough to share with others.  The story centers on a cold weather shelter which a church in my community opens up for a period of time in the dead of winter, when the weather is most likely to be at its worse.  The church has an indoor gym/basketball court upon the floor of which homeless families can spread a mat and catch a night’s sleep out of the elements.  There is also a kitchen, bathrooms and showers, so the guests can get a hot meal and clean up for a night and perhaps feel a little better about life for a while.  These homeless people can line up each night for a couple of weeks and after the adults blow into a breathalyzer (no drugs or alcohol permitted in this space) the families go in and reclaim their corner of the gym floor. Various churches in the community take turns monitoring and facilitating the process, and my church’s turn will come later in January.

     The speaker at my church told us a story about a family that helped last year, and particularly about a young boy who is a member of that family.  On their appointed evening the parents went about their chores while the little boy in question played with the children of the guest families.  As children are able to do, the differences in social position between servers and served were overlooked and he simply had a great time playing with another little boy.  When their four hour shift was over the parents gathered up their little one and began their drive home.  On the way the little boy was expressing how much fun he had had and how he wanted to play with his little friend again the next day.  “Well, we won’t be going back tomorrow” said his father.  “We only signed up for one evening.”  “Can’t we just go over to their house?” asked the little guy, seeing an obvious solution to the problem.  “No, we can’t” responded Mom.  “That little boy and his family don’t have a house.  That is why we were helping them to have a warm place to sleep tonight.”  The little boy thought about that for a while and as the concept that the family of his new friend did not have a home sank in he began to tear up.  “But where do they live when they are not at the church?” he asked.  “I don’t really know” replied Dad.  “Sometimes with friends for a while, or in their car.  I really don’t know.”  This was too much for the little boy to deal with.  He simply broke down and cried as Dad and Mom drove home.  Mom and Dad were weeping too by the time they arrived at their warm house and both ended up lying on the bed with their little son, comforting him and each other until at last he fell asleep.

     After hearing that story I meditated for a while on the concept of justice and its counterpoint, injustice.  The words get used in a great many different ways and their meanings can become murky.  One person’s injustice is another person’s just deserts, and so on.  Many people speak of social justice and injustice and it can be hard to pin those concepts down too firmly.  A baby is born to an addicted mother, and clearly the baby is a victim of injustice while the mother is guilty of breaking a plethora of moral and judicial laws, and is deserving of retributive justice.  But when that baby grows up with his capacity diminished by the drugs in his little preborn body and surrounded by the most marginal edges of society and then he is homeless, addicted and viewing life through a lens that doesn’t quite reflect the view from a safe and secure middle class life, has he ceased to be a victim of injustice?  He should most certainly be answerable to the law for infractions of that law, but is a bag of dope in his pocket going to get him a much more harsh sentence than the same bag of dope in the high school quarterback’s pocket?

     I could make this a longer bit of writing but I don’t want to preach.  The topic of social justice and injustice is a difficult and tangled one and if you believe that you have it all sorted; well, you don’t.  There are ins and outs, nuances and a galaxy of tangents and rabbit holes to be plunged into in a full discussion of this topic, and I do not propose to so discuss it.  Rather, I find it valuable to ask myself as I ponder the issue “does it break my heart?”  Do I weep because a little boy or a little girl does not have a home?  If not, why not?  Am I so calloused and hard that such a thing does not bother me?  Has this child tapped into the heart of God in a way that I, with my books read and sermons listened to and tedious opinions rendered to whomever would listen to me, have completely missed?.  I am uncomfortably certain that that is indeed the case, and I will have to give up a lot of my smug pride and false sense of superiority to even begin to understand what that little boy instinctively knows.