by Dr. James R. Brooks
[before dismissing this missive as naiveté, please reflect upon the source of your success.]
My son is blessed that his bus stop has been very diverse. My son knew Joey, Ethan, Taylor. He seemed not to know asian, african-american, caucasian or the other ethnicities represented at our bus stop where he was one among many rather than one of the many.
Recently, friends and I had a spirited conversation regarding the welfare state. We did not say “the welfare state” but we did spend much energy attempting to solve the issue of those who live on the “dole” from generation to generation. The solutions were creative and humble and thoughtful. The love for our neighbor was inspiring, and none of us agreed with every solution. I am blessed to have friends willing to discuss in such depth with me.
As I listened, I felt compelled to offer a solution.
The state / government can only, at best, prevent the riots. Whether through force of arms or opiate of a check, prevent some from entering the homes of others to obtain what they need. I reserve for another time the opportunity to explore the many facets of that statement. Onward to a solution…
Given the limits of the state / government, a solution to the welfare state is “relationships.” Stay with me during a couple of leaps …
When we discuss “a solution to the welfare state” we typically talk in macro terms which too often leads to a polemic. The conversation includes frequent use of “they” or “we” or “them” or “us”. It is painting a picture with a whisk broom.
When we discuss the relationships of our life, we use proper names. Each name has a story. With the name comes a series of connections. So and So is related to So and So or was a roommate with or a classmate to, etc etc.
If Jane Doe or Juan Valdez had a flat tire, would you stop and help the “macro person” or the “relationship person”? Would you help the caucasian, hispanic or african-american? Would you be more likely to help Jane or Juan because you know their name before you know their ethnicity?
You may not agree with the lifestyle of Jane or Juan. You may think that Juan or Jane takes advantage of the system. You may never want Juan or Jane to come to dinner or be your friend. But if you have a relationship with Jane or Juan, you are more likely to help them.
If you know the story behind Jane or Juan, you might help. If you know the family of Juan or Jane, you might help. If you see Jane or Juan in church, you are more likely to help.
As long as our national discussion lives at the macro level, you and I will never solve the welfare state. We will merely pray that the country of our flag will prevent the riots.
Jesus said … to the least of these so you did to me. We remember these words when we offer water to the thirsty. What of these words when we ignore the thirsty, hungry, homeless, disadvantaged … generationally on welfare?
Abraham Maslow wrote of a hierarchy of needs. Maslow postulated that it is impossible to fashion meaningful love relationships if the basics of life are in question.
“meaningful love relationships” are talked about often in the Bible. From Abraham’s relationship with God to Jesus and the woman at the well to Paul and the love chapter in 1 Corinthians 13.
You have the power to solve the welfare state in your neighborhood and community. You need not wait for the “macro solution” to take effect. You can change the world on your block today!
As a bonus, you will have new friends, you will feel more safe about raising your children in your community, you will trust that your spouse will be welcome, you will discover a brave new world.
Jesus performed an experiment. It is recalled in the book of Luke chapter 10. Jesus sent out his followers in pairs, to share the Good News and to build relationships. Those in the experiment returned with tales of amazing happenings.
You can enjoy those happenings. You can tell those tales. Replace the stereotype with a name. Ask the stereotype to know your name. You need not be in full agreement to be friends / neighbors / acquaintances. You need only to know a name and there begins a solution.