Where Government Drops Ball, People Must Take Up

This is one of those stories that makes you feel good about one human being seeing and hearing and helping another human being, but it also frustrates, because long-term answers are not forthcoming.

When she asked if she had paid for all the food she was carrying, Robles confessed that she hadn’t.

“I asked her, ‘Why would you do that? What would make you do that?’” [Officer] Thomas told WSVN. “And she said, ‘My children are hungry.’”

Thomas pulled her aside and checked her criminal history. Finding nothing major, she charged her with a misdemeanor.

However it was Robles’ story that left Thomas concerned, as she knew the single woman’s problem wasn’t at its end. “I made the decision to buy her some groceries because arresting her wasn’t going to solve the problem with her children being hungry,” she told the station.

Thomas spent $100 of her own money on groceries for the young mother. . .Anais, Robles’ 12-year-old daughter, had tears streaming down her face as she expressed her thanks.
[...]
It’s “not fun to see my brother in the dirt, hungry, asking for food, and we have to tell him, ‘there is nothing here,’” the 12-year-old sobbed to the news station.

It’s great that the cop did this, but $100 worth of food plugs a hole that will be open again in a few days. What this lady needs — and I’m sure she would agree — is a job.

People like having jobs; they like to be self-sufficient and feel like they have options in life. No one likes to feel powerless. No handout can replace the sense of pride one gets by accomplishing things on one’s own.

Back in April, the Chicago Tribune reported that almost 90 million Americans were out of the work force. It has gotten only worse, since then, and five years after a promise of “shovel-ready jobs” the government still seems unserious about job-creation. Hundreds of billions of “stimulus” dollars meant to support the creation of “green” jobs have been wasted as one “green” enterprise after another has gone belly-up, after having “created jobs” that amounted to a statistical nothing.

Why aren’t we creating jobs?? Our bridges and roads, even our grid sure could use some attention and there are plenty of people who could do the work. Who knows why the $800 billion in stimulus funds did not go toward repair and maintenance? Some blame the EPA; some blame the Obamacare laws that discourage employers from hiring full-timers; some blame the unions; some blame the president and his priorities, which seem so detached from our employment issues that Obama needs to constantly pivot — usually just in-time to change a subject that’s grown too uncomfortable for him — in order to find the file marked “job creation”, which he never seems to actually open before pivoting once again.

Assigning blame may be gratifying, but while we indulge in it, people are not just losing jobs; they’re not just blowing through savings and 401K accounts to hang on to their houses. They’re going hungry.

In social media, yesterday this mother’s story generated many sympathetic reactions, several tweets about “teaching a man to fish” (which as true an axiom as it may be, doesn’t really apply when people are looking for work and can’t find it) and a little noise akin to Scrooge’s “are there no workhouses?” One person noted the mother’s tattoo and wondered if the ink might have been better-spent on food, but that road leads nowhere; she could have gotten the tat when she was flush, and besides, as Dorothy Day said, “The Gospel takes away our right forever to discriminate between the deserving and the undeserving poor.”

So, fine, everyone opines on social media, and then the timeline moves and this family is forgotten; we’ve been trained to feel a thing and then immediately get over it for these fifty years or more. “Gee, those poor people; that’s awful. Oh, look! Puppies! A new i-thing! I want that!”

But we shouldn’t be able to forget these stories so easily. I’m sure this mother would prefer not to have her kids faces splashed across the paper for the sake of their need, and yet the inherent dignity of these people — this woman and her children — reaches out from their photos, and cannot be denied.

“Where is the father?” A good question, and one that we can ask in too many households, today, but it’s not the first question. The first question needs to be: how do we help this lady get on her feet to the point where she can put body and soul together, and feed her children. How do we create jobs, and help unskilled workers to grow in experience? Does raising the minimum wage do it? I frankly don’t think so; employers who are not hiring unskilled workers at $7.50 an hour are not going to be more inspired to hire them for $10 an hour.

In 2006, the labor force was larger, people were working, and tax revenues were breaking records. Seven years later, things are very different.

Given that reality — and the utter dysfunction and fakery that characterizes a political class that has become unserious about anything but itself — the search for solutions should begin in local communities; the churches should be at the forefront of that search. In actuality, that means you and me; many hands, many pocketbooks, makes light work, light expense.

***If you’re doing alright, are you going grocery shopping this week? Can you afford to slip a few bars of soap, or shampoo or some toothpaste, or cereal, or soup, or tea, or tuna, or rice and beans and juice cans into your list, and then take that stuff to church with you on Sunday? Can you try to commit to bringing something, at least one thing, for your outreach or pantry, every Sunday?

***If you’re making a trip to a “big box” store, like Sam’s Club or Costco, consider throwing a thing of mac-and-cheese or pasta into your cart, for the food bank.

***Consider helping your church build a team that can help people write resumes and practice for interviews, and offer gently-used clothes, suitable for a job-hunt.

***Can your church “create” some jobs by pooling funds to hire someone to do light maintenance a couple days a week? Can the folks on your block pool funds to hire a “handyman” (or “handyteens”) to do autumn yardwork or neighborhood cleanup?

Yeah, okay, these are all small, temporary measures, but if they can put a few bucks into someone’s pocket and introduce some energy where there is none, perhaps it can lead somewhere. Energy begets energy, and if you’ve read this and thought, “but it’s the government’s job to do this” or if you immediately smirked and called me naive, or if you went negative because I’m talking temporary measures instead of permanent solutions then you’ve unwittingly fallen into a mindset of stagnation that mirrors Washington’s.

And who the hell wants to be like Washington?

Why not begin to organize projects between (and under the auspices of) community philanthropic groups (Knights of Columbus) and established local businesses (Rotary, Chamber of Commerce). They’re already in place and functional, and not subject to onerous new set-up requirements and restrictions, but maybe they needs some fresh input, some new ways to work cooperatively.

If you’ve got an evening free, join a local organization that is not a government entity; stand up at a meeting and say, “I see a need; what can we do?” Once things are put into motion and energy is expended, who knows what inspiration may come, or where the Holy Spirit might strike. Who knows what bright idea might take hold of someone, or some group, and begin to create real and lasting change, real opportunities?

Things are stagnant; nothing good is happening; sometimes you have to open the door a crack, to give the Holy Spirit room to move. We can’t sit around, waiting for a cop to bring $100 worth of food to a hungry family, or a pair of boots to a homeless guy. Small efforts and small starts are better than no effort, and no start. We have to be the change we want to see.

Image courtesy of shutterstock.com

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