Friday, July 28, 2006

Common Beginnings. . .Different Outcomes

The gift of grandchildren changes your life!


What an understatement of the first order!

My oldest grandson called me yesterday morning before I left the house. He is two.

"Grandad? Hi!," he began.

"Hi, Wyatt!," I exclaimed, so very glad to hear him.

Our conversation went on about "Bob the Builder," a tumble he had taken off the slide, and other important matters, until his big sister wrestled the phone away from him to have her turn.

What a way to start the day! They are amazing and even more precious.

They remind me of lots of important things.

They also reveal new truth.

Like this one: Everyone starts out like Gracie, Wyatt and Owen.

We all came into life as babies.

All of us.

Every homeless person you meet on the street has baby pictures, or has had, somewhere.

With some important, serious and notable exceptions, the beginnings are basically the same for most of us. It's the "in between" that gets us off track.

Something to remember, I think.

Today we travel back to Austin to appear one last time before the Governing Board of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs in our quest for an award of low-income, housing tax credits from the state.

If we are successful, the award will mean our plans to develop City Walk @ Akard in Downtown Dallas will go forward. The project will provide 200 units of housing for low-income working persons, including a 50-unit set aside for formerly homeless persons.

Please remember us.


Anonymous said...

Economist Walter Williams list four things that help prevent poverty
1.Finish high school-loans may be obtained for college.
2.Not having children before marriage.
3.Get any kind of job
4.Do not become involved in criminal activity.

I think it is absolutely our Christian duty to help people in poverty but I don't see the "social injustice" involved in a lot of the poverty cases. I see it as making the wrong choices.

Anonymous said...

Blame the poor. Sounds like a great plan, Anonymous.

Go Larry! Go Larry! GO LARRY!

MommyHAM said...

Oh anonymous - your post saddens me. My mother failed at #2 and #4 - though technically, she was never prosecuted for any criminal activity, so it's debatable as to how directly that affected our situation...but I digress.

For her, it wasn't about choice; but the only way she knew. To be certain, she has to face consequences for acting on these principles she learned - but it wasn't this conscious choice you folks that are uber-conservative seem to fancy. The fact that no one loved mom well enough to try and show her a different way is "injustice" in my mind. the fact that my childhood could have been very different is injustice in my mind - b/c I had no choices to make as a child - they were made for me, and they continue to be for MANY children around the world!

To counter your statement - "but" negates anything you say preceding it. So, in otherwords, you just said, "*I* [not God] think that it is absolutely our Christian duty to help people in poverty, if *I* deem them worthy."

Huhm....Sounds pharisaical to me. Sounds extremely hypocritical to me - considering we're not worthy of the greatest Gift of all, yet He surrendered his LIFE for us - how can we deny ANYONE our help out of gratitude to HIM, regardless of choices others make? It's NOT our place to determine.

Did Jesus mention the Good Samaritan as pondering, "Hmmm, you know if he planned his route more safely, this traveler wouldn't be in trouble? Should've bought traveler's insurance.." and walk on by?

I'm sick of cowardly discouragement coming from other "proclaimed" Christians - yeah, it happens all too often for those who stand up for Christ and His teachings.

I'm praying for you on the tax credit issue. Keep us updated!

MommyHAM said...

Oh, and Larry, forgot to mention - we've got a different slogan going here in CO re: "I matter"

Homeless People Count...

A little double entendre for the purposes of our project :)

Mike Exum said...

I am working with a crack addict who goes by the name "Lisa" sometimes. She is the worst case person I ever met. She haunts me, and probably always will.

Lisa is HIV postive, and at this point is likely full-blown AIDS. Her own family kicks her out at night. She walks the streets all night long, most nights with no where to stay. She reports sleeping in a car from time to time, or on an old mattress in someone's back yard.

A while back, Lisa was savagely attacked. (I do not know what provoked the attack.) She was stabbed a few times. She asked the bystanders not to call an ambulance; she wanted to die. But they called the ambulance and she survived.

She has a stomach wound that will not heal. It seeps dangerous body fluid constantly. Several shelters and helping organizations turn her away at this point because they are not equiped to deal with a leaky AIDS patient.

On top of all this, Lisa is an addict. That is probably an issue very close the core of her problems. She got HIV from sharing needles. However, I have learned that Lisa's mother was an addict too. Lisa was born addicted. She was using illegal drugs and alcohol by age 6. She has been in and out of jail since adolesence. And, I question, though I am not qualified to judge, whether she has organic mental disabilities.

This is a woman who practically never had a chance. Anonymous, you are hanging a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of that 6 year old. Howbout put it on the community that produced Lisa instead? Where was her church when growing up? Singing "Jesus Loves The Little Children" behind closed doors in a nice over-caffinated white neighborhood? I am betting that is very likely.

Where was her social worker? Where was the judge? They may very well have been there witnessing and grieving for a little girl who was slipping through the cracks they could not seal up... I dunno.

But I feel sure that only Jesus can save Lisa now. And I believe as His Body, the church is His hands in the situation. And I believe as His hands, feet, mouth etc, we must address how just the environment she grew up in is. We must heal it with His healing touch. Bringing conviction into Lisa's heart is part of the solution, but only if we love her. Blaming Lisa, and folks like her, is not the Jesus way.

I invite you to come down to the streets with me some midnight for a communion service. I will introduce you to a dozen small children -some as young as 4, who are out walking the street at that hour unattended by their parents. (And these are not even homeless people!) I suspect once you see them, touch them, and love on them a bit, you will become outraged and the social injustice that drives the pervasive chaos eating up our society.


Many blessings...

Scott Freeman said...

Larry, as always I enjoy your insight. It's challenging and refreshing to me. I'm in the middle of a discussion on the chronic nature of poverty on my blog. I'd love your input.

Daniel Gray said...

Love those pictures -- it hits me as a really good marketing tool to get people involved.

epic said...


I love your blog and am almost always challanged by your thoughts. Thanks!

I do think some of you may be missing the point that the first "anonymous" may have been making. There is nothing wrong with a society holding out ideals for healthy lives.

In no way does this mean we don't love and help those who have screwed up. In no way does this mean we don't love and help the children of those who screwed up. In no way does this mean that everyone or even the majority of those who need help screwed up.

I was blessed with a background the led me to teach my children that they should not touch things that are hot. If some other child doesn't have parents similary blessed, should I be restrained from passing on what I know?

Having said all of that in (partial) defense of anonymous, I want to add a bit about "social justice". It appears to me that term is usually used when someone thinks the real words describing their ideas would be dramatically less acceptable. However, I don't want justice. If we had justice, all of us would be poor, outcast, and uncared for. That's certainly what I deserve for how I have led much of my life.

What I want, for me and for you, is grace.


Anonymous said...

This is anonymous 1 again.
To me, "social injustice" means things imposed by society or the government which keeps people from reaching their full potential. For example, the Jim Crow laws of the past. This country has been moving to a more just society for years, in fact, in some cases, in it a distinct advantage to be a minority.

Amy Boone said...

Oddly enough, I think about the topic of this post a lot. When I see people trying to make it on the street I think about how they were a baby once. Probably they had someone cooing over them and saying how cute they were. I always wonder what happened along the way to get them to the place they are now. Again, oddly, I have even thought that same thought of every person having a baby picture somewhere. Where are those pictures? Who has them now? Quite a mystery.

John Greenan said...

I want to let you all know that Central Dallas did receive its award of tax credits today--Larry, I and Dr. Jim Walton, whom Larry occasionally mentions here, were all in attendance. I'm sure Larry will have more details later.

Receiving that award was so unlikely that it suggests some providence was at work. I hope we can make our work worthy of this gift.

John Greenan said...


Economists will also tell you that one of the biggest determinants of your economic well-being is whether you have children or not.

And a hint--raising children doesn't make you richer, at least in money.

Jeremy Gregg said...

For more information on the award of Tax Credits, visit:

CDM's web site


CDCDC's Web site

Mike Exum said...

Anonymous 1,

I see what that your way of using "social injustice" and mine differ. And it is important to make that determination. Thanks for clarifying.

However, I have two thoughts in rebuttal nonetheless. 1) I think a richer way of using the term, though granted not the most accepted even among professionals, is to see that the "Fallen-ness" of our world - our current self-interested world order - is really at the root of social injustice. True enough, we do not have overtly brash laws that discriminate against minorities anymore -overall. And whats more, we actually have many laws that protect minorities, even sometimes in unfair ways. However, social injustice really is a matter of the heart -both individual and collective. And it happens inspite of good or bad laws.

2) The fact that many folks, such as yourself, find "distinct advantage" given to minorities, does not seem to be an issue with Jesus, or the Kingdom of God. One of the core distinctions of the people of God is that they care for widows, orphans and sojourners. (Actually, Israel did not do so hot at that a lot of times, and so God judged them for it.) It seems that making these disadvantaged people's needs a priority is the Jesus way. So, if you are finding advantage given to them -even at your own expense- remember Jesus saw them that way too; thus you might not be far from the Kingdom of God. So do not lament that observation.

All that being said, I still think that as a general rule, minorities do not share in most of the advantages. And I am not sure how worthwhile the point is, even though I am willing to concede to much of it, if you are willing to look at it with cross shaped lenses.

Many blessings...

KentF said...

Congrats to Larry and CDM - prayers heard and answered!

To Anon1 - go read about Jesus in the Bible - let his teachings on dealing with the poor, the oppressed and the unwanted seep into your heart. And, for goodness sakes, get away from the right-wing venom among Coulter and others suggesting we should kick the downtrodden from the curb to the gutter for making so many bad choices.

Jeremy Gregg said...

Here they come again!

"For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, 'You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.'" Deut.15:11

"Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you." Matt. 5:42

"Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?" Isa.58:6-7

"Whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?" 1 John 3:17

Jesus said, "Whatever you have done to the least of these my brothers, you have done unto me." Matt. 25:40

institutedallas said...

I grabbed the USA Today as we boarded the airplane for the second leg of our journey from Miami to Guatemala City. As I settled into my seat, I read a quote from the newly elected President of Mexico, stating that if he could advise the immigration-concerned U.S. Congress he would suggest they redirect every dollar that might be spent on erecting a concrete barrier between the two countries and instead invest them in economic development activities in Mexico to see a greater impact on stemming the immigration tide. As we taxied for takeoff, I thought about his comment and realized that it made sense to my way of thinking, but it would be provocative to many concerned U.S. citizens.

I have been mulling these thoughts over in my mind over the last few days, while vacationing in Guatemala. I realized that the America I know and love has become preoccupied with ideological debates dividing us between the labels of “conservative” and “liberal” or “red” vs. “blue”. Maybe it is the new perspective that a foreign land and its people provide, but I wonder if it more relates to the type of vacation we have embarked upon.

My family and I came to Guatemala to work with a small orphanage of “special needs” children. Viewing our current American culture while helping to care for children born disabled in a developing country has provided me a fresh point of view. As I have witnessed my four young American sons spend hour upon hour of their vacation holding and playing games with severely disabled Guatemalan children, I caught a glimpse of a future America. Watching them and then listening to their reflections, I realized that we have “unplugged” our lives from the American ideological debates around the relatives and countrymen of these precious children (i.e. immigration of Central Americans). In the process, our family gained perspective based upon first-hand observation of these wonderful people and their cultural heritage. Moreover, and possibly more importantly, I think I may be recognizing a new breakthrough strategy for unwinding the paralyzing debates that engulf so many of my friends.

An international trip to spend time with some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens is an easy remedy for what may be ailing so many of us. Through the eyes of children one can easily experience a melting (or at least a partial thaw) of the hardest ideological perspectives. Simply counting the number of digits or limbs a specific child has or doesn’t have reassures you that we are all connected in this grand global experience. Walking with a child with cerebral palsy liberates while holding a toothless autistic pre-teen changes your economic metrics and sense of return on investment.

“What are we trying to protect ourselves from?” I wondered, while holding a young boy blinded by congenital cataracts? The profound impact of these children upon the lives of my family has caused me pause and temporary relief from the embedded opinions I held prior to arriving. Here, in a Guatemalan children’s home for the disabled, I gained freedom from the arguments that boiled in my mind and shaped my opinions without personal experience and knowledge. I recommend that each person holding a strong opinion of our current American political arguments around immigration and health care for the poor, spend time in a foreign country to better understand what God is doing. Because it seems to me and my four sons that God is still at work within all human persons (in Guatemala and the U.S).