Saturday, April 26, 2014

Lest we forget. . .


1 in 4 Dallas residents live in poverty.

1 in 3 Dallas children live in poverty.

Over 1 in 4 Dallas residents is "food insecure" (euphemism for "hungry").

Almost no one in Dallas receives "welfare" benefits (7,611 persons receive Temporary Assistance to Needy Families or TANF).

Almost 90% of DISD students take are eligible for the free and reduced lunch program in school.

Almost 73% of students in the various Dallas County ISDs are eligible for the free and reduced lunch benefit.

Dallas ranks 4th in poverty behind Detroit, Memphis and Philadelphia.

27% of Dallas adults have no high school diploma.

Dallas residents more likely to be in poverty than in the United States' other 20 largest cities.

In 3 zip code areas 60% of the population lives in poverty.

33.3% of residents in my zip code area live in poverty.

The federal poverty level for a family of 4 is $23,550 or $64 a day.

10% of Dallas residents (1 in 10) live below 50% of the federal poverty line.


Dallas is the richest poor city in the U. S.

People aren't poor because they are lazy, stupid or "sorry." 

People are poor due to gaps in skill sets, education/training; health issues, families of origin issues, life skills deficiencies, business reversals, human mistakes, and the accident of birth.  The zip code area in which one lives is a determinant of health outcomes.

To construct workable solutions and helpful approaches, we must learn to consult the people closest to the problems of poverty:  those who are poor themselves. 

We need to from robust, smart working groups and commissions on attacking poverty with a view to ROI for the entire community and a willingness to learn from other communities.

We need to noodle on ideas that allow Dallas' trade reps and corporate recruiters to bring deals home that serve, employ and empower folks who are currently battling poverty.

We must face the fact that real progress will involve "over investment" or remedial strategies to really leverage change.

We need to realize that investments made at the bottom of our socio-economic structure are dollars that swirl quickly to benefit everyone in the city.

Attention needs to be given to micro industries and entrepreneurial options for low income persons with big, good ideas about work and business.

A goal for Dallas County:  that every child born here leaves the hospital with a savings accouint and a path to the establishment of an Individual Development Account (IDA).

We need to find ways to provide low-income, working neighbors access to capital/credit on reasonable terms.

We must address state and city mental health funding gaps.

We must insist that Texas expand Medicaid.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Will he find a home?

Possibly you've seen the news reports out of North Carolina regarding Timothy P. Schmalz's stunning sculpture, Homeless Jesus.  If not, take a moment to view the report below.

So, I'm wondering: will this Jesus find a place in Dallas?

I have a donor who has pledged to fund the cost of bringing this work of art to Dallas.

Where might this piece be placed?

Where might he find a home?

Let me know your thoughts.

Easter faith

Easter 2014.

The streamers will fly!

The music will rise to amazing crescendos!

The litany will inspire to tears.

The faith will be confessed again.

The children will laugh!

The pews will swell!

The preachers will preach an ancient message of surprising hope.

The Christian year ascends to its highest point before a time of more waiting.

Easter 2014.

How did we get here again, and so quickly?

Today should be a time to remember and reflect.  The cross, the place of death, signaled the results of an extremely radical message, a word from heaven directed to earth. 

Easter teaches us:

Defend widows. . .

Receive without exception children who are poor. . .

Challenge unjust, oppressive authority. . .

Resist injustice. . .

Shine a spotlight on wealth and its dangers. . .

Question religion. . .

Eat with the poor as buds. . .

Embrace sinners. . .

Accept "Samaritans". . .

Touch the "unclean". . .

Champion the homeless as fellow residents of the streets. . .

Welcome women as leaders/contributors. . .

Call for a new Kingdom emerging from within everyone. . .

Dare to announce forgiveness to thieves. . .

Befriend enemies. . .

Welcome the world to your party. . .

Prefer the poor and the weak. . .

Indeed, these are the sure, certain steps to a cross, yet giving birth to individual acts of resurrection upon which to build a life that blesses all.

An empty tomb must lead to emptied lives.

Easter 2014!

Now what?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

More than you can know

A key learning from two years on the street, almost every Thursday afternoon:  human touch, affirmation and sincere appreciation bring people back from the dead.

As I've talked to my friends who have no place to call home, other than a makeshift campground under an interstate highway bridge--ironically, highways built to take most people home after work--I've learned the importance of touch and human expressions of kindness and love.  In fact, it's clear to me that the one thing we all desire is to be genuinely loved.  That love involves respect, expressions of friendship and affection, and simple appreciation.

The street has taught me that "a pat on the back" is much more than an English idiom.  Touching a friend on the shoulder or back in a greeting or a farewell usually elicits such positive reactions as to be surprising to people like me who take that sort of non-verbal communication for granted. 

Love raises people from graves of hopelessness, depression, oppression and despair.

So, for me, over the past several months the thought has come again and again to bring the ultimate expression of affirmation to my friends on the street.

I did that a couple of weeks ago when I served Communion on the side of a street where I've been hanging out for almost two years. 

Reactions were mixed and taught me other lessons that I'll unpack here in time. 

But claiming and declaring the love of God for and to my homeless friends turned out to be an amazing experience for me and a number of them.

As hard as our mean streets are, they aren't hard enough to shake off our need for acceptance. 

Lent gives way to Easter just as love opens doors to new life, often unexpected new life.

I've seen it again and again on the street.

 I observed it again, even more powerfully, when I asked the simple question of those who passed by, "Friend, would you like to receive the Lord's Supper?  God loves you more than you can know."

Monday, April 07, 2014

Seth Godin: Smart Bidness!

The smart CEO's guide to social justice

It seems as though profit-maximizing business people ought to be speaking up loudly and often for three changes in our culture, changes that while making life better also have a dramatically positive impact on their organizations.
Minimum Wage: Three things worth noting:
  1. Most minimum wage jobs in the US can't easily be exported to lower wage places, because they're inherently local in nature.
  2. The percentage of the final price of a good or service due to minimum wage inputs is pretty low.
  3. Many businesses sell to consumers, and when they have more money, there's more demand for what they sell.
Given that for even the biggest organizations there are more potential customers than employees, the math of raising the minimum wage works in their favor. More confident and more stable markets mean more sales. Workers struggling to make ends meet are a tax on the economy.  (Consider the brilliant strategic move Henry Ford made in doubling the pay of thousands of his workers in 1914. The assembly line was so efficient that it created profits—but only when it was running, and high turnover made that difficult. By radically raising pay, Ford put pressure on all of his competitors (and on every industry that hired the sort of men he was hiring) at the same time that he created a gateway to the middle class, a middle class that could, of course, buy his cars, whether or not they happened to work for him). Also, consider this point of view...

Climate Change: The shift in our atmosphere causes countless taxes on organizations. Any business that struggled this winter due to storms understands that this a very real cost, a tax that goes nowhere useful and one that creates countless uncertainties. As sea levels rise, entire cities will be threatened, another tax that makes it less likely that people will be able to buy from you.

The climate upredictability tax is large, and it's going to get bigger, in erratic and unpredictable ways.
Decreasing carbon outputs and increasing energy efficiency are long-term investments in global wealth, wealth that translates into more revenue and more profit

Anti-corruption movements: The only players who benefit from corruption in government are the actors willing to race to the bottom--the most corrupt organizations. Everyone else is forced to play along, but is unlikely to win. As a result, for most of us, efforts to create transparency and fairness in transactions are another step toward efficient and profitable engagements.

Historically, when cultures clean up their acts, get more efficient and take care of their people, businesses thrive. It's not an accident, one causes the other. 

In all three cases, there's no political or left/right argument being made--instead, it's the basic economics of a stable business environment with a more secure, higher-income workforce where technological innovation leads to lower energy costs and higher efficiency. 

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Disruption no more?

Worn Smooth

Like a jagged rock thrown into a flowing stream, the church once “troubled the waters.” Now, however, it seems as if the church has slowly, often imperceptibly been worn so smooth by the culture that it no longer creates any disturbance at all.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Anniversary of Dr. King's terrible death

Alone or One?

No individual can live alone, no nation can live alone, and anyone who feels that he can live alone is sleeping through a revolution. The world in which we live is geographically one. The challenge that we face today is to make it one in terms of brotherhood…. Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood, and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood. But somehow, and in some way, we have got to do this.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014