A few weeks ago, I finally put my money where my mouth has been and started volunteering at Love Wins on a regular basis. Before you ask, no, I wasn’t involved in Biscuitgate; that happened on the weekend when I’m in Greensboro being a dad. However, I have been involved in the aftermath of the avalanche that occurred when the City of Raleigh decided (without warning) to enforce an ordinance that’s been on the books for years. Hugh wrote a blog post titled “Feeding Homeless Apparently Illegal in Raleigh, NC” that quickly went viral. When I say “viral”, I don’t mean a few thousand views. To date, this post has received over 365,000 views and has more than 1000 comments approved. Noticed I said “more than 1000 comments approved“; that means there were a lot more that didn’t make it through. Of course, all those comments had to be moderated and guess who got tagged to help out with that effort?
I wasn’t the only person working on this, there were 2 or 3 others that I know of, but I saw enough to be reminded that there is most definitely a dark underbelly to the internet. While the really disturbing ones were easy to deal with (they’re what the “trash” button was created for), there were others that weren’t so easy because they pointed out less-than-flattering attitudes we hold about people who are poor, who are homeless, who don’t have enough to eat. There are several and the one I’m writing about now is the idea that these folks need to show they’re worthy of our help.
Between my years as a firefighter and volunteering at Love Wins, I’ve gotten to know quite a few folks from Raleigh’s at-risk community. One thing I’ve noticed is that you can’t always just look at someone and know that they’re a part of it. They don’t look the way most of us who are more fortunate think poor people should look. They wear decent clothes, they might have a cell phone. One of the things I do as a volunteer is take people to Catholic Parish Outreach food pantry and many of the cars in the parking lot are pretty nice. Not brand new, but nice and in good repair. There are people who seem to feel that if folks can afford conveniences like this, they don’t need the help they’re lining up for. Really?
These things aren’t conveniences, though; they’re necessities. Decent, durable clothing is essential to survival when you spend most of your life outdoors. In land where pay phones are few and far between, a cell phone can mean the difference between life and death. And, in a cities with abysmal public transit systems (like Raleigh), your mobility is severely limited without a vehicle. And, all these things contribute to a person’s ability to find the employment that will lift them out poverty.
The Bible is full of scripture telling us to care for those less fortunate than we are. But, I have yet to find one word saying those people need to prove they deserve our help. Jesus said “feed my sheep”, not “feed the sheep who deserve it”.