Thursday, November 15, 2007

speaking up for the poor

Last night I attended a community meeting around establishing a new shelter for homeless in Flagstaff. The meeting became emotionally charged with words that summed up to mean 'not in my neighborhood'. Check out the local write up here.

I had to respond, at least my little part for speaking on behalf of the poor, helping to raise the voice that not only do we help the poor, but they help us to become more human through the way we see them as real human beings, a stretch for many. I was pretty frustrated with their comments and short sighted vision for helping those without as you can tell. Either way, here's my letter to the editor:

"As a concerned citizen for the homeless and as a clergy frequently assisting such individuals myself, I was looking forward to a hopeful conversation around a community yearning to help the poor. What I found was a sad expression of community social interest more concerned about self-preservation than hope-filled community engagement. I can’t say I’m completely surprised, but I do believe we have to stop demonizing people and believe that if our communities are as strong as we say they are we can use that strength to perpetuate goodness rather than to allow ourselves to be controlled by fear. We will never get anywhere in our journey to become more human if we can't understand that how we treat the poor is a statement for how we really think about ourselves. I came to the meeting with my children in hopes of allowing them to see what a community caring for others might look like. Unfortunately, I was not able to shine the light bright for them for this kind of witness. No doubt, fear is driving this. It is interesting to me that many are afraid for how the ‘bad’ people coming to the neighborhood while simultaneously registered sex offenders exist right down the street (I looked online!). Do we really think the Flagstaff shelter wants more negative activity engaging the neighborhood? Until we can make a home inside ourselves for the homeless, identify with their radical brokenness, I wonder who the homeless really are in this town?"

What difference does it make? Well, I guess I'm more interested in being faithful to what it means to live in the way of Jesus, this of course, means sharing the values of God with a community who may or may not listen.


Tom Welch said...

Well written letter....I have been trying to deal with the question of "WHY"...what is driving our society? FEAR seems to be the common answer...probably FEAR of the unknown.We really don't know the un-documented, we really don't know our GLBT neighbors (nor do many admit knowing they're here.) and those peoples out on the street..scary!!!So then the question of "How do we meet them? How do we ever get to know them...(our daughter sent a book this summer..."Same kinda different as me" by Denver Moore and Ron Hall...I've bought several copies this year and passed them around. That can break some ice and get people to think. oNE OF MY FAVORITE QUESTIONS TO PEOPLE IS "nOW THAT YOU HAD DINNER WITH A GAY MAN...HOW DO YOU FEEL ...SINCE YOU DIDN'T KNOW BEFORE?...or my favorite "What do you mean Pastor______ you don't know ANY "GAY" pastors...DAH!!!!!!
Bottom line is..until we can sit at the table with each other..not much will ever happen. God speed on helping those people get a shelter started.
Peace, Tom Welch

dave said...

"until we can sit at the table with each other...not much will ever happen."

that's exactly it! great way of saying it. i'm wondering what it might look like to invite people to the table just to meet each other. what would happen? what could happen? we might even say, who has the time? but this is exactly what jesus was about, eating with people to demonstrate the value of who they were, the reflection of the presence of God in and through a human being. thanks for sharing.

Lars said...


That is a great letter, written strongly, yet without falling into the trap of being judgmental about those who oppose the shelter. It's sad, but this story is echoed a thousand times a day in this country - not in my back yard.

If we can't start owning up to the poor as being one of us, instead of this group of pariahs to be kept at bay and protected from, we will never make a dent in poverty. After all, who wants to work hard, make sacrifices, and change yourself to be like the "good people" at a town meeting who are so judgmental of others.

I'm glad you wrote this. Hope it helps.

isipwater said...

Hey Dave,

I love how you put your thoughts together on this issue.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the matter.

I love your ability to articulate the Spirit of Jesus.