Thursday, July 21, 2011

Heaven standing at the gate of Hell

I saw it again yesterday.

Across the years I've seen it time after time, appearing in different forms and shapes.

Heaven standing at the gate of hell.

The context for my latest experience was routine enough, at least for a sweltering hot July afternoon in Dallas.  I dropped in on one of the delivery sites for our mobile summer lunch delivery program.  The innovative effort teams CitySquare (through our AmeriCorps members and our Nurture, Knowledge and Nutrition initiative) with PepsiCo.  Over the past two summers, thanks to this unique partnership, we've doubled the number of children served these important meals during the months when school is not in session.  Those are the details, the set up, if you will.

As I watched our AmeriCorps leaders playing with a good sized group of precious children, I somehow stepped across a line.  Somewhere between vision and overwhelming realization, I looked into hell itself from the edge of heaven. 

The children were beautiful and playful, in spite of the terribly oppressive heat.  By the time I left the site my clothing was soaked.  They all seemed unaffected!

The meals were served as usual.  Everyone sat down on the ground and ate picnic style under the only shade I could see in the aging, multi-family apartment complex. Living conditions were crowded here.  The people felt packed into a very limited and limiting space.  I met one mother who shared that two families lived in her rather small apartment, extended family members sharing a home.

In spite of all the negatives and the discomfort, the children smiled, expressed gratitude and genuinely enjoyed being together and interacting with those of us who showed up on their turf. 

I stood in heaven with these sweet kids, but I also had a front row seat at the edge of an advancing hell. 

I thought of what would happen with these children over the coming 5 to 10 years.  I wondered about their education, their health, their employment options, their success or failure and what that would mean for the kind of future they would experience.  I wondered how long the sweetness could endure the poverty and the obvious struggle I could see reflected in the eyes of their parents. 

Among those wonderful little ones, children just like my grand kids, I realized as never before what a challenge we face in the cities of this nation.  Dread rolled over me like a summer storm.  So much work to do.  So little national understanding of what's up among the urban poor and their children.  So few leaders from any sector who really "get it."

Yesterday I experienced the horrible "thinness" hanging between heaven and hell. 

In the heat with the children and our partners I had to wonder if we're up to the challenge of the present and coming battle.


Chris said...

America is a good place to live if you are poor. You probably have a refrigerator, a/c, wide-screen T.V., DVD player,etc.

In addition you probably buy your food with an EBT card, live in subsidized housing, have free medical care and get free lunch and breakfast at school. You even have people come atound to feed your children in the summer.

It is so important to defeat Obama in order for the country not to continue on the path to socialism, which will make everyone poor.

A relative of mine lived in Greece for many years. He was always bragging about free health care, their high living standard, workers retiring at an early age,unable to fire workers, etc. Now look at the country, going down the toilet. Like the old saying,"Socialism works until you run out of other peoples money."

Larry, you need to wake up, read the latest Heritage report on poverty.

I have faith that the American people will send Obama on a permanent vacation next year. Yeah!
If the election were held today he would lose.

I am more than happy to sign my name.

rcorum said...

Chris, I actually agree with some of what you said, but do you have to portray poor people as the enemy?

Chris said...

I wasn't aware that I portrayed them as the enemy--just stating facts.

Anonymous said...

Chris, I assume you are Republican. Can you explain how the Bush tax cuts promoted jobs? Because last I checked, they led right up to -- created? -- the historic recession and its associated job loss.

Can you tell me how Bush's launching an unfunded war somehow increased our long-term fiscal health rather than added further to the deficit?

Anonymous said...

Well, for starters, look at the overlapping job growth trends of both presidents:

Click Here

Anonymous said...

This one is a little different .......
Two Different Versions .....
Two Different Morals


The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and
laying up supplies for the winter.

The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.
Come winter, the ant is warm and well fed.
The grasshopper has no food or shelter,
so he dies out in the cold.


Be responsible for yourself!

The ant works hard in the withering heat and the rain all summer long, building his house
and laying up supplies for the winter.

The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.

Come winter, the shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while he is cold and starving.

show up to provide pictures of the shivering grasshopper next to a video of the ant in his comfortable home with
a table filled with food.
America is stunned by the sharp contrast.

How can this be, that in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is
allowed to suffer so?

Kermit the Frog appears on Oprah
with the grasshopper and everybody cries when they sing, 'It's Not Easy Being Green..'

ACORN stages a demonstration in front of the ant's house where the news stations film the group singing, We shall overcome.

Then Rev. Jeremiah Wright
has the group kneel down to pray for the grasshopper's sake.

President Obama condemns the ant
and blames President Bush, President Reagan, Christopher Columbus, and the Pope for the grasshopper's plight.

Nancy Pelosi & Harry Reid exclaim in an interview with Larry King that the ant has
gotten rich off the back of the grasshopper,
and both call for an immediate tax hike on the ant to make him pay his fair share.

Finally, the EEOC drafts the Economic Equity & Anti-Grasshopper Act
retroactive to the beginning of the summer.

The ant is fined for failing to hire a proportionate number of green bugs and,
having nothing left to pay his retroactive
taxes, his home is confiscated by the Government Green Czar and given to the grasshopper.

The story ends as we see the grasshopper and his free-loading friends finishing up the last bits of the ant's food while the government house he is in, which, as you recall, just happens to be the ant's old house, crumbles around them because the grasshopper doesn't maintain it.

The ant has disappeared in the snow,
never to be seen again.

The grasshopper is found dead in a drug related incident, and the house, now abandoned, is taken over by a gang of spiders who terrorize and ramshackle, the once prosperous and peaceful, neighborhood.

The entire Nation collapses bringing the rest
of the free world with it.


Be careful how you vote in 2012

Chris said...

The recession was caused by loose lending practices through the Community Reinvestment Act. It has nothing to do with tax cuts. The banks were forced to lend money to people who were bad credit risks under the guise of "fairness." The Bush tax cuts probably helped the recession not to be worse by putting money directly in the hands of the people.

On the other hand, the Obama stimulus plan has been a complete flop. It did not go to the people but into the hands of unions who support Democrat policies.

I'm unsure about the war. I do know there are people who would like nothing better than to wipe us off the map. Notice that we are still there three years after Obama was elected.

Justin Schneider said...

"America is a good place to live if you are poor." I guess that's a true statement. I'm not sure what the rest of these comments have to do with the blog other than proving the point that Larry made: "So little national understanding of what's up among the urban poor and their children. So few leaders from any sector who really 'get it.'"

Thanks for the post, Larry. I hope we can continue to seek God's will here on earth as it is in heaven. And by that, I hope we can continue to feed those who are hungry, clothe those who are naked, and hold off hell for as long as possible.

Justin Schneider said...

I think this may speak to the moment. From "Dorian Gray": "Each class would have preached the importance of those virtues, for whose exercise there was no necessity in their own lives. The rich would have spoken of the value of thrift, and the idle grown eloquent over the dignity of labour." True then as it is now.

Anonymous said...

Chris and Anon:

You're rhetoric is pure ideology, almost totally detached from reality. I know a good number of poor people. They enjoy little in the way of creature comforts. They barely get by. Their's is not a life anyone would want if you had other choices. To portray the poor as grasping and lazy is both mean spirited and, frankly, ignorant. As R Corum asks: why do you insist on seeing the poor as the enemy?

Anon - you're modern version of the Ant and the Grasshopper is so divorced from the reality of the US in 2011, I have to wonder where and when your tale is set. It cannot be here and now. We have the widest gap between rich and poor in a Hundred years. Taxes are at their lowest rates since the introduction of the income tax. Congress is effectively controlled by ardently conservative Republicans who will go to any length (including, apparently, crashing the economy) to protect their wealthy donors from any addtional taxes. No - the Grasshopper has not taken over the Ant's house and goods. He's very much still begging outside for a few crumbs. And, as I understand Jesus, he would tell the Ant in no unceratin terms to share a little of his excess, even if the Grasshopper had been foolish. (Can you really imagine the opposite: Jesus saying "Yes, it was all his fault, let him die"?)


belinda said...

Chris, if America is such a good place to live if you are poor, why don't you sell everything you have and give the proceeds away? Then you can be one of the poor people and enjoy a wonderful life.

Anonymous said...

Hey Belinda. If Chris joins the non working class, then who will pay the bills? Someone has to put food on the table(s) and we're lucky Chris has assumed the responsibility.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:38 - you have made a completely unwarranted, but all to typical, assumption: that the poor are the 'non-working' class'. This is simply not the case. The vast majority of the poor work. They simply cannot make it on what they earn. You are using incorrect stereotypes to further an agenda, and distorting the conversation in the process.


jlbarber said...

To the Jack Ass who wrote the modern tale of the Ant and the Grasshopper:

Here is a modern tale for you:

The Horse and The Jack Ass:

The horse works at ABC Manufacturing for less than 25,000 per year and is at risk of losing his job because the CEO is thinking about outsourcing the companies manufacturing operations to Mexico where they can pay workers even less!

The Jack Ass thinks the horse is a fool because he will not go back to school to get a degree, so he can get a better job in investment banking or business marketing!

The Horse gets laid off from ABC Manufacturing, and now has to collect unemployment and welfare. He is offered some incentives to go back to school to learn a trade with specialized training. He is concerned about how he is going to feed his two kids, and go to school at the same time.

The Jack Ass thinks the Horse is a drain on the tax payer because his tax dollars go to help fund the horse's newfound educational opportunity.

The Horse goes to school to learn how to become an electrician, but soon learns that no companies are willing to hire him because he has no experience working as an electrician.

The Jack Ass still pissed that all his tax dollars are going to help feed the horses kids because he can't find a job, just learns that 5 of the commercial building companies he raised investment capital for go under because they misstated their earnings and corporate assets.

The Horse becomes even more frustrated because a couple of commercial building companies he had sent his resume to just went out of business, and his dream of becoming an electrician seems to be fading slowly away.

The Jack Ass becomes even more pissed because his tax dollars are going to help the useless bottom feeder Horses on welfare and unemployment. Because of the downturn in his business, he has to borrow from his 401k to help him get through these rough financial times. The Jack Ass needs the money from his 401K because he was not able to clear the $150K salary to pay for his 5000 square foot home, 3 Cars, Sailboat, and country club membership.

The Horse is at his wits end because the money he receives from unemployment and welfare is not enough to feed him and his family. He is now in desperation, and knows he needs to do something to make ends meet. The Horse wishes he could relocate his family to a better neighborhood with better schools. It is becoming apparent his son has started running with the wrong crowd in their neighborhood.

The Jack Ass is pissed because of the constant news about the useless government spending, and making it harder for him to raise investment capital for his business partners. The Jack Ass then decides to go to the bar to drink his frustrations away.

The Horse's son hanging with his friends one evening is told he is a punk if he does not rob this Jack Ass leaving the bar......

The Jack Ass having had plenty to drink decides it's probably time to head home. The Jack Ass leaves the bar only to meet a young Horse who robs him at gunpoint. Then the young Horse proceeds to kick the shit out of the Jack Ass....literally kicks the shit out of the Jack Ass then takes the money he just borrowed from his 401K

MORAL: Don't be a Jack Ass :)

Anonymous said...

That was a lot of work to simply call me a jack ass. Your fable lacked the punch to make a sound point. Too many tangents. For every exception you might raise to demonstrate there are many working poor - and I agree, there are many working poor who simply do not have the resources to live on their income, save some money, invest in their skill/knowledge base - there are many more exceptions to your fable.

If you took ALL of the income of wage earners who earn more than $300K annually, you still could not pay for all the debt, debt service (interest) and other obligations our fine federal govt. has gotten us into.

The Obama administration simply does not believe this is a problem - either that or his team really does want to crash the economy. I can't imagine the damage Obamacare will do if/when it is fully implemented. This is the plight of the Ant in the fable. He did tell us during the campaign that he intended to change everything, that those with more should pay more, that "basic needs" (however that may be defined) for every American should be provided. But what that really means is that middle class (and higher) income earners will pay more. That's not OK with me, when you consider what it took for them to get to their place in life.

The transfer of wealth is especially painful b/c we know there are two (2) factors that contribute to poverty and both are easily managed by the poor in this country - out-of-wedlock birth and lack of education. Zip up your damn pants, go to class, read the books we give you, run the numbers, and keep your mouth shut when the teacher is speaking. Even people who get a "C" in all their classes, IF they simply pay attention and use what knowledge they gain through minimal effort can make a decent living. We all know this. And I hate (Yeah, some things I really do hate!) working extra hard and seeing my taxes go up to help those who won't even put in minimal effort.

I would be happy to help the poor - I have written thousands in checks directly to people in need. But I will fight any effort to manipulate the economy to transfer part of my paycheck to someone who won't work.

Mr(s). Barber, take a writing class.

Anonymous said...

Let's be clear: NO ONE is proposing taking ALL of anyone's income.

The president wishes to raise the tax rate for those earning more than $250,000 from 36 percent to 39percent (under Eisenhower that tax rate was 91 percent).

Who will that 3 percent increase hurt? Media personalities whose income is in the millions, the 15 hedge-fund managers who earned an average of $1 billion last year and the Koch brothers whose wealth increased by billions last year and who are now funding Tea Party candidates throughout the country.

And what about the national debt? Raising the tax rate 3 percentage points for the very wealthy will reduce the debt by an estimated $680 billion over the next 10 years.

That's real money - and from only a 3% raise that those affected would barely notice. We're talking increments, not all or none. But R's won't even talk increments, even with the debt crisis and the national economy at stake. They're betting it all on their ideological positions.


Anonymous said...

"What will that 3% hurt?"

Now that is an interesting question. If we know that taking 100% of income from the "rich" will not pay for all the debt, debt service, and expenses, then why take the 3% at all? Why don't we quit overspending, more evenly distribute the tax bill, and close tax loopholes so that companies like GE don't get a free ride?

Anonymous said...

"...then why take the 3% at all?" Please tell me you're not serious. Politics is not about perfect answers. It's the 'art of hte possible,' i.e. compromise.

Using your rationale: Why tax anyone ... ever? Why fund government ... at all? Like it or not, that rationale makes you an anarchist.

It is the kind of ludicrous all-or-nothing thinking (3% might as well be 100%) that is causing such a mess in Washington.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:19 - all or nothing, huh? Sounds like Obama's speech last night. Anarchy... do you think that is what conservative, middle class families are all about? Do you think anyone who cares about family and community would even get close to decisions that might promote anarchy?

Maybe you thought you saw my picture at the flash mob in Chicago last week. No wait, that wasn't anarchistic. That was just a peaceful protest against the borgeois.

Hey Larry. Let's try an experiment. Let's go back to that same neighborhood and hang two signs. One directing people to the same services/food they received at the time the picture was taken. The other for jobs at $2 above minimum wage - with a clear description of the job which includes 4 hours of hard physical labor, 2 hours of light physical labor, and two hours of planning and problem solving. No other benefits will accompany job two.

Which line will be longer? The line for services or the line for the job?