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HolyGround >> Helping the poor


10/11/10 5:47 PM
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Grakman
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Edited: 10/11/10 5:48 PM
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I'm interested in hearing the opinions of the Holy Ground on how one defines the poor and marginalized, and what it means to help them, and what help is then sufficient.

Now some things I know are obvious - kids without shoes and medicine; homes without water, etc.  I know there many people like that even in affluent nations like the United States.

However, our definition of 'poor' includes people with two automobiles, big screen tv's, video game consoles, air conditioned homes, fancy jewelry.  These people are considered sufficiently poor enough by our government to be eligible for  public assistance, free medical care, etc. I know stereotypes abound; here is an example. I witnessed an obese woman with three small children go into a convenience store and purchase five bags worth of 'groceries' - chips, cookies, sodas, candy - with a Lone Star card (Texas version of food stamps.) She then took out a wad of cash and bought scratch off lottery tickets, then rounded up her children and left the store in a 2008 Ford Explorer Sport Trac with custom chrome rims. Now, by our government's standard she is considered 'poor.' 

When making my daily trip to the Post Office I often encounter people begging for money or selling trinkets for a dollar. On this particular occasion there was a small, obese man with a large belly sitting on the ground next to the door. His clothes appeared clean and he was not unkempt. As I came up to the door he asked me if I could help him, he just wanted some food could I spare some change. I talked to him for a minute and decided against giving him any cash or going to pick up food for him, which is what I usually do when I encounter someone who looks like they could actually use a meal.

I have handled people begging or asking for food or help differently throughout my life; sometimes I offer help regardless of who asks or why; sometimes I try to use some discernment, and sometimes I actually get annoyed at these people (being honest.)

Every year around Christmas and Thanksgiving their are toy drives and turkey dinner drives and so on. Routinely I see people roll up in new model cars to pick up this meal for the 'less fortunate.' The kids select video games from the toys available, which means they already have an XBox or Playstation at home. I see kids with decent clothes and Air Jordans picking up free school supplies and backpacks.  Are these people part of the 'poor' that Jesus called for us to help?

Is it part of the Christian obligation to help the poor to have better and more expensive luxuries? I don't know.

This is not a rhetorical question or a rant; part of me thinks I should try to help regardless, and another part thinks this is all ridiculous and a misappropriation of resources in the name of 'doing good' that could be better served and channeled elsewhere.

Thoughts?
 
10/12/10 8:24 AM
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CJJScout
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My college roommate moved to the inner city with his family to do children's ministry. They have set up non-profit after school programs that allow the kids a place to come and learn skills, keep them off the street, and learn about Jesus. These are kids from the projects, always tangled up in gang issues, no parents, etc.

He also has at times let some of these kids stay w/ his family (wife, 4 kids) when they have nowhere else to go. Given them food, clothing, shelter, and most of all love.

He is an inspiration to me and he is living out the gospel. He knows what it means to help the poor and marginalized.
10/12/10 8:57 PM
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reverend john
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The idea of "helping" the poor is the big problem with the liberal ideology. What happens is these people get stuck in a cycle of dependence and lose their own understanding of the imago dei. Though I believe it is more humane to do something rather than nothing, it is not a solution, and often makes things worse.

For me the issue is empowerment. When people cannot afford basic necessities, live from pay check to pay check, and do not have the means to care for themselves properly, but receive handouts, often in lump sums, and are offered credit they do not have the wherewithal to pay back, at exorbitant interest, they do the things you are talking about. Yeah you dumb ass, you can't pay for your kids school books but you have a big screen tv that you will wind up paying three times as much for because you are paying 30 percent interest.

True care for the poor is not about making myself feel better by "helping them". But actually becoming part of their experience, living alongside of them and being an example of how life can be lived. This is one reason I don't get paid to pastor a church, the people in my neighborhood not only learn the example of me working, but also will somtimes learn to do what I do as I can employ and train them. Empowerment is about allowing the solutions for the neighborhood to come from the neighborhood, using leadership to release leadership rather than control. To teach the value of co-operation ect.

As far as determining what is poor and what isn't, well the "poor" in America would be "rich" in another country. My way of looking at it is this, am I living contrary to the incarnation of Christ? Who left all not to just help us, but to be one of us, to make his victory our victory, and our struggles, pains and death his own. Is my life in a trajectory towards those that Jesus identifies as the least in my neighborhood? And is it possible that I am even on a trajectory out of my neighborhood towards another? I am not interested in defining who qualifies as poor enough for me to minister to, but rather, how can I live in the simplicity of Christ, and bring empowerment to the orphan, widow, the leper, the naked and hungry, or maybe in our culture, the ex con, the street whore, the alcoholic, the homeless or the mentally ill.

Hope that made sense, I sure felt passionate while writing it

rev
10/12/10 9:52 PM
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Grakman
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 It makes a lot of sense rev; your passion came shining through.
10/13/10 9:58 AM
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CJJScout
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I actually used one of my vote ups for the rev on that.

Also, we often try to quantify poor in terms of materialism. We should always be on the lookout for the poor in spirit to minister to.
10/13/10 11:28 AM
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Lahi
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CJJScout - I actually used one of my vote ups for the rev on that.

Also, we often try to quantify poor in terms of materialism. We should always be on the lookout for the poor in spirit to minister to.
10/13/10 12:18 PM
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the rooster
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Grak, good point. My mother came from the Azores islands and I went there to visit when I was in 8th grade. They had a shack where we stayed, that was the size of a small section of my basement. Blankes were hung to divide the "rooms". They had no inner plumbing but an outhouse.

They had no govt assistance, and no technology. But...they had the ocean as their backyard with their shack sitting atop. My grandfather went fishing daily, owned a few pigs and chickens and they ate what they made.

My mothers favorite Christmas to this day was when her father got her some figs and put them under her pillow.

To this day, my wife felt "rich" and that was because of the love and the ability to enjoy nature, etc.

But today, my mom and her family might have been viewed as victims and the marginlized, and turned into dependents of the state, who aren't satisfied with the pittances they get from the achievers.

Instead my mom came here for a better life and worked very very hard to achieve. She bought small rental homes and got on her hands and knees to tear up and lay tile, to paint room, etc. and then rented them for decades until the rent paid them off and became an income stream. She later sold them as they depreciated.

She never took govt aid and put all of her children through private schools despite very limited education.

I haven't even gotten to my father who was the child of a mexican immigrant.

The success of my family (brother and sisters) is the result of God's blessings manifest through the example of my "poor" parents.
10/15/10 1:09 AM
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reverend john
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So he asks a question about how to define poor, and how to help and you tell a rags to riches story? I don't get it. Are you saying that the people in the slums of Bangkok have the same opportunities? Or that the kids that grow up in a poor neighborhood in Long Beach, with a single mother working two jobs, no male role models, crap unsafe schools, constant harassment by the police and gangs in the area, have the same opportunities as anyone else? Or the kids whos parents break the bank, destroy their future with credit they can possibly repay because they just want in one way to have what everyone else seems to have, understand money the same way as rural farmers do?

Look bro, your family worked hard, and scrimped and saved, and did well. Good for them, and I really mean that. But to suggest that they are normative is not reality, especially not todays reality. We live in a culture that defines your identity by what you own. Read Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton, its a quick read, and you will understand what I am talking about.

Your story basically heaps guilt upon those that are already struggling with shit we can't fathom. It is your own fault because you are too stupid, or lazy. Well the people I spend time with are neither, they are trapped in jobs that don't pay a living wage, they are working two or three jobs and can't go to school. God help them if they get sick, or injured. Sure, they might be able to get care but they have no sick pay, they have no insurance, and they wind up getting dept they can't pay back. Some of the finest, hardest working people I know cannot get out of the hole they are in because they just are not privileged enough to be able to get the right jobs, or have the time for the right schooling.

Now I know you are proud of your family, and they did an admirable job, but just like no matter how hard I try I will never be michael jordan some of these people just are not given the tools or opportunities to become a success. It is Gods calling to us to give them those tools and opportunities.

rev
10/15/10 6:02 AM
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Grakman
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Edited: 10/15/10 10:51 AM
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Jesus called Peter and Paul and the rest of the apostles to start job training programs?

Lament the fact that our society is status driven, then lament the fact that not everyone has equal opportunity to have that status? I realize that job + insurance != status, but you're including people in your example who drive themselves into debt? You can complain about folks not having insurance and complain at the same time about the society which even makes such a thing as insurance possible?

I know rooster didn't give us every detail of his life story, but I don't see the point in the criticism. I did ask the question about identifying the poor in an affluent society, and he responded by personal anecdote about what life was like to be actually poor, not 'poor' with automobiles, air conditioning, video games, and big screen TVs. Those people are not poor.

There are people out there who do not want to work; who do not want to avail themselves of all the programs available to them, for job training or education. There are plenty of anecdotal examples on both sides - some need the help, and some don't; they're just taking advantage. No amount of education or help can change a persons inner conviction to change themselves, that comes from within. I admire what you do and your conviction rev. I realize people need help and that we fall short as a society sometimes. But I still see a need for a person to take some personal responsibility for their situation. I'm not saying you don't think so as well; just the emphasis may be different. Phone Post  

Correct me if I'm wrong, but as I understand it, your point of view is that we should emulate Christ, and to you that means that we should live among the poor and marginalized. We help them through relationships and being there for them.  That means not accumulating wealth or focusing on earning money.  Tha'ts great, and I have no problem with that model.

On the other hand, you chastise rooster for not thinking of the lack of opportunities faced by the poor people in places like Bangkok. I ask you; how in hell is a guy who deliberately shuns wealth and chooses to live among the poor and marginalized in one place supposed to help the poor some place else? I know modern Evangelical fundies take a beating on this board, but who is sending the cash and people to build schools and dig wells in places like Africa or the Philippines? Can't do stuff like that without money. 

10/15/10 10:34 AM
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CJJScout
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reverend john - So he asks a question about how to define poor, and how to help and you tell a rags to riches story? I don't get it. Are you saying that the people in the slums of Bangkok have the same opportunities? Or that the kids that grow up in a poor neighborhood in Long Beach, with a single mother working two jobs, no male role models, crap unsafe schools, constant harassment by the police and gangs in the area, have the same opportunities as anyone else? Or the kids whos parents break the bank, destroy their future with credit they can possibly repay because they just want in one way to have what everyone else seems to have, understand money the same way as rural farmers do?

Look bro, your family worked hard, and scrimped and saved, and did well. Good for them, and I really mean that. But to suggest that they are normative is not reality, especially not todays reality. We live in a culture that defines your identity by what you own. Read Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton, its a quick read, and you will understand what I am talking about.

Your story basically heaps guilt upon those that are already struggling with shit we can't fathom. It is your own fault because you are too stupid, or lazy. Well the people I spend time with are neither, they are trapped in jobs that don't pay a living wage, they are working two or three jobs and can't go to school. God help them if they get sick, or injured. Sure, they might be able to get care but they have no sick pay, they have no insurance, and they wind up getting dept they can't pay back. Some of the finest, hardest working people I know cannot get out of the hole they are in because they just are not privileged enough to be able to get the right jobs, or have the time for the right schooling.

Now I know you are proud of your family, and they did an admirable job, but just like no matter how hard I try I will never be michael jordan some of these people just are not given the tools or opportunities to become a success. It is Gods calling to us to give them those tools and opportunities.

rev

I didn't read it like that, just thought he was sharing a success story.
10/15/10 11:33 AM
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Grakman
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Edited: 10/15/10 11:37 AM
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 Question:

People need to earn a living wage. What exactly is a living wage? I'm not talking about an actual dollar amount, I mean what is a person supposed to be able to buy with their money for working 8 hour a day at a fast food restaurant as a cashier? Or bagging groceries? I'm not knocking the people who do those things, I'm just wondering out loud, is that supposed to be enough to get them a nice place to live, a decent car, full health care, full fridge and pantry? What about cable TV and Internet access?

Let me give you a personal example (anecdotal evidence again, our favorite!) of how government programs can ruin things instead of help, in the long run, and how you can't teach self-motivation:

I live in a poor area with a lot of people on government assistance. The home health nursing industry has been a huge business here. It employs a lot of people at great wages. Problem is, most of it has been funded by government programs. They were paying an LVN $28.00 an hour plus mileage to go to a person's house just to give them a shot. These people have adult family members living with them who are plenty capable of giving a shot,  and 95% of the patients themselves are capable of giving themelves a shot. Same for wound care. Old guy gets a cut on his foot, doctor refers them to a home health agency, LVN gets $28 to go out and pour some peroxide on the guy's cut and bandage it, while family members watch. What do you think is the reaction of these people when they are asked to give the shot to their family member, or to do it themselves? They get PISSED. They say it's the nurses' job, they're not doing it, they complain and threaten to report for failure to provide care.  Thing is, they're not paying a single penny for it. It's 'free.'

Now Uncle Sam's cutting back. Nurse's wages have dropped to $22 a visit and patients are being discharged from home health care left and right.  When there was 'free' money to pay for it, well it was a medical necessity to have a nurse go out there~! Now, no money, suddenly it's not a medical necessity anymore.

Mind you most of these people don't live in run down houses without flushing toilets or no AC. They miss appointments with the nurse cause they're out getting their hair done or getting a manicure, or shopping at the mall. Are these people poor? Should their wages cover having a nurse come out to provide basic medical care like cleaning a  wound or giving a shot?

Meantime, a guy I work with is battling bone cancer. He has insurance but it doesn't cover deductibles or co-payments. He is in danger of losing his home. Everybody and their brother is selling raffle tickets and barbecue plates to help raise money to help this guy cover costs. His family is taking care of him cause he doesn't 'qualify' for home health care and he can't afford private nursing care. Seriously bro, WTF? And I'm supposed to feel sorry for people who won't even give their own mother a shot?

I realize that you are not saying that government should run programs or that government is a substitute for Christian action. I'm saying I question the underlying assumption that people who are down on their luck are all that  'down;' and some of them don't want to take any responsibility for themselves at all.

I'm off my soap box now.  I apologize for the FRAT.
10/15/10 12:12 PM
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reverend john
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I knew that post was going to stir up some shit but I had to say something. One of the reasons u see the stuff u decried in your opening post is the idea that rooster not intentionally at all expressed in his post and that is u r poor because u are lazy. Now that is a prevailing attitude. If u have stuff it says something about your character. So why do people who can't afford to pay their rent without help buy flat screens and cadillacs? Because they don't want to be looked down on as losers even though they think of themselves that way.

I have never decried making money I make good money. But I don't take money from my church I use the money I make to give to friends working in third world countries. As well as using it in my neighborhood. I drive an old chevy we do t have tv ect. It is a out working hard which is godly and good if it's good work and being responsible

Which is exactly what rooster says and I agree the difference is let's be examples by being along with them. I am not trying to bag on roosters story at all I am trying to point out that it can't be a universal story it can be a story that makes people feel worse and it's a story that some people need to see rather than hear

Please understand that sometimes people say well I can't pay my rent anyways I have no job I am a loser might as well buy this tv or car every ad says it will make me feel better. I actually remember once we didn't have the money for rent I told the wife being 150 short isn't any better than 170 short so let's go see a movie ands forget about our finances for a few hours. Stupid maybe but I have been there two kids no job and none in sight. Go work at mcd's but then I can't be looking for work that pays enough to live off of

Rev
10/15/10 12:15 PM
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reverend john
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And for every one of those people who think the world owes them there are two that are feeling like no matter how hard they work they will never climb out

Rev
10/15/10 12:25 PM
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reverend john
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Oh btw rooster please understand I support and admire the working class ethic and simple living of your grandparents. I in no way meant to disparage you or them. I was just tying to point out the other side of that story. Having actually sat down and spoke with many in these situations I feel their pain and feeling of hopelessness. Your story rather than inspiring them often makes them feel stupid and lazy

Rev
10/15/10 12:32 PM
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Grakman
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Edited: 10/15/10 12:36 PM
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^^ My own experience is the opposite, for every one that is trying to make it,  two think the world owes them.  We can see this played out every day in national politics.

What is the solution rev? I know you're not saying government programs are the solution but how about a living wage? You mentioned that a couple times, what is a living wage in your opinion? Is there a certain level of work or responsibility on the job that should afford a person a house, car, and full pantry? 
10/15/10 12:36 PM
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Grakman
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reverend john - Oh btw rooster please understand I support and admire the working class ethic and simple living of your grandparents. I in no way meant to disparage you or them. I was just tying to point out the other side of that story. Having actually sat down and spoke with many in these situations I feel their pain and feeling of hopelessness. Your story rather than inspiring them often makes them feel stupid and lazy

Rev
So why do they take guys like Cain Velasquez to all the Latino youth programs in urban areas and portray him as a role model? Are the kids generally inspired to be like him or does it make them feel worse? How in the hell can you inspire a person if you can't tell or show them that others have done it before them, if you're worried about hurting their feelings? I thought the whole idea was that people needed positive role models.  How do you help a person who feels stupid and lazy instead of inspired by such stories? Not a rhetorical question, I'm seriously asking - what is someone supposed to do if they want to help that person get on their feet?
 
10/15/10 2:40 PM
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the rooster
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rev: Oh btw rooster please understand I support and admire the working class ethic and simple living of your grandparents. I in no way meant to disparage you or them. I was just tying to point out the other side of that story. Having actually sat down and spoke with many in these situations I feel their pain and feeling of hopelessness. Your story rather than inspiring them often makes them feel stupid and lazy

me: hi rev, it was my mom actually and dad. No problem. I didn't feel disparaged at all. being in sales has thickened my skin.

You know, I think part of my struggle is that when my mom came here legally, she (over many years) brought a lot of her family over and helped them. There are 2 sides to our family. There is one side that is independent, responsible, more traditional citizens. We stay married, we earn our keep, we give back (coaching, opening companies, whatever). (and i'm not saying this to toot my horn, more that there is this one side of our family that came here and is here and views it as a privilege).

Then we have another side of our family. They *are* lazy. They are cons. They steal, sell drugs, take advantage of other people, lie, take advantange of "free" services, are violent, dysfunctional etc.

I have several cousins whose sole "job" is to work the system. They use public housing, public welfare, public medical care, public transportation etc and they sport cell phones, cable, designer clothes etc. And yet, everyone sucks, there "free" stuff sucks, etc.

They are dependents, parasitic and lazy.

That being said, I love them but being around them is frustrating. They don't want to change, they don't want help unless it's something "owed" to them. They talk bad about those who are working hard etc.

Anyway, I'm in a hurry and I hope this made some sense. I again feel like Grak much better articulates how I've felt for many years and now seeing manifest in my own life when I went from a spoiled liberal unsaved college guy to a 42 year old married parent who is being blessed the harder I work. I don't know man...just seems more clear.

I feel like all of this is a matter of rebuilding the Christian ethos and work ethic and getting rid of this liberal socialistic relativistic culture we are now in.
10/15/10 2:52 PM
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reverend john
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A living wage means that u make enough to live off of without working sixty hours a week so u can actually be there to help the family help with school maybe go to school yourself.

Rev
10/15/10 2:57 PM
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reverend john
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It is unfortunate that we give the same message and some gets heard one way and another doesn't. A young Hispanic boy hears Jordan say I worked for all this I shot a thousand free throws a day. The kid shoots a thousand jump shots a day and will never make it why? Cause he isn't 6'6" with a four foot vertical leap and as fast as a track star. Too many of these kids see there only way out as sports. I don't think Cain is the answer. I think people living alongside of and working alongside of is the answer

Rev
10/15/10 3:25 PM
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the rooster
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me: I feel like all of this is a matter of rebuilding the Christian ethos and work ethic and getting rid of this liberal socialistic relativistic culture we are now in.

me again: this isn't "all" we need. Christian ethics and education can help the outward mores, but the heart has to be changed by the Spirit of God and a gratitude of salvation.
10/15/10 4:00 PM
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Grakman
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reverend john - A living wage means that u make enough to live off of without working sixty hours a week so u can actually be there to help the family help with school maybe go to school yourself.

Rev

 Sixty hours a week is a lot eh?
10/16/10 1:23 AM
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reverend john
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One of my employees who is an ex con would take the bus to work. Meaning he would have to leave his house two hours before work, and get home two hours after work. This means if he was working sixty hours a week, he would spend fourteen hours a day, six days a week given to his employment. He also takes care of his sick mother, who needs him at home to administer meds and cook for her. He needs to do laundry, chores around the house, grocery shopping ect. And he doesn't have kids. Now how would he go to school so he isn't stuck doing construction until he is too old to work? It is going to be hard enough for him to do it working only forty hours a week, which he can only do with help from his family.

In my neighborhood if you are paying someone 12.50 an hour, which is quite a bit over the minimum wage they make $400 a week. They won't be allowed to work overtime at most places because the cost is too high. So they will take home 350 or maybe a little more. A two bedroom apartment (and I don't live in a good neighborhood) is $1,200 so that is more than three quarters of the wage. See, there are people in my neighborhood that work a full time job for $10 an hour, then go work a part time job for $8 have no time to go to school and get out of the cycle, and still wind up not getting by.

Some consider the forty hour work week a luxury. I think it is a key to health especially in these poorer neighborhoods. Parents need to be with their kids and each other. People need access (which includes time) to education. People need to learn to rest in a positive way as well. The Sabbath economics stressed a day of rest. But also stressed the forgiveness of all dept every seven years. The radical redistribution of wealth every fifty years. And safeguards to protect the stranger, and the poor.

rev
10/16/10 8:10 AM
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Grakman
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Hopefully your employee is a rags to riches story in the making. In your opinion, who bears the responsibility of making sure that a person makes a living wage or has access to education and healthcare? Phone Post
10/16/10 11:07 AM
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reverend john
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Well being a christian anarchist, I believe the church community does. Government screws up everything they touch, cept for killing people which they get better and better at. Programs dehumanize people even with the best intentions.

I do think employers should be encouraged to think of more equitable sharing of wealth. I think we should all strive to create more "good work" opportunties. Child care ect.

rev
10/16/10 11:12 AM
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Grakman
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Amen rev. Phone Post

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