How far away are we from re-living a Dickensian world? Where Oliver Twist is born an orphan to an unmarried mother and ends up working for the evil Fagin, it is here that Oliver learns to run with the likes of the 'artful dodger.' These days of course Oliver would belong to a gang where violence is the name of the game and children as young as ten kill for fun. If life was cheap in Victorian England, it is even cheaper now.
Many parents have abdicated responsibility so they can live their lives free of commitment, which leaves their children devoid of any knowledge of affection or love. Their learning is done on the streets, should we be surprised then if we find ourselves surrounded by miniature barbarians? Only a few years ago tourists going to Russia were warned not to wear brand names on their person lest they find their throats slit for a brand of Nike Shoes.
We leave much of the responsiblity for these youths to Governments, how far have they succeeded? These children are passed from one foster home to another and as we know many fall through the cracks in the system. The cracks are becoming the Grand Canyon, do we care?
If in Victorian times you had a job you also lived with the threat of being one pay cheque away from being on the streets. There were no sick days, no vacations and pray God your children did not get sick. You could afford lace curtains at your window's but not a doctor at your door.
Now parents work up to three jobs and barely see their children as they try and support their families in order to afford the basics for them. These parents are not working for fun, they work so they can afford health insurance, they work in the hope of sending their children to College and to plan for their own retirement. All of this is done to keep the wolves at bay but the wolves are howling at the door.
There are many families who are one pay cheque away from being on the streets.
Centuries have passed and still there is no answer to the problem of poverty and it's viscious cycle mainly because consecutive governments place the problem in the 'too hard box,' after all many homeless don't vote!
Having worked among the homeless and families who are considered borderline poverty I have seen where giving people driblets and droplets simply doesn't work. If anything it merely helps the poor to remain exactly where they are, never able to get ahead and only just managing to keep a roof over their heads. As we strip them of their basic rights, to believe in themselves and to maintain their dignity.
Poverty is viscious, it is meanspirited and it shows no mercy towards anyone.
When it comes to poverty we have become numb, we see the homeless as a faceless mob who irritate our conscience not because we are uncaring but because we do not know how to help.
Organized charities are also not much good in making real change, much of your donations go towards administration costs. These charities dispense food vouchers as miserly as Scrooge counted his money. If a mother of 2/3/4 children comes to a charity seeking help because she may have bills in the amount of $ 500 or more and these mothers are given a $20 food voucher, what help is that? The following week the same mother is back begging for another voucher. Where is the dignity?
It is a fundamental human right that people are housed, clothed, educated and fed. When did these essentials become luxuries meant for the few?
We have money to send rockets to the Moon and now Mars, billions of dollars spent so we can see grainy pictures of a desert. Governments find the money for war, but not for the poor.
We have our priorities wrong.
When we turn away from the poor we turn away from Christ.
Are we a loving and compassionate people? Do we take the example shown by our Lord and Saviour seriously or do we give mere lip service when we hear the cries of the downcast and broken hearted? Do we listen or do we preach at people from a comfortable position of privilege?
An alcoholic or a drug abuser do not need lectures on the evils of drinking and drug taking, they are already in their own private hell, do not heap coals upon their head. When was the last time you conversed with a homeless person? When was the last time you volunteered to work in a homeless shelter?
We need to rise to the challenge when it comes to tackling poverty as did Blessed Frederic Ozanam, who not only gave assistance to the poor but ennobled them by his friendship. Being poor is not a crime, but withholding our help from those in need shows a flagrant disregard for the Teachings of the Gospel and the Church.
Going to Mass once a week does not make a Christian if we fail to live the Gospel Message, in our daily lives.
Frederic was not a dreamer, and he understood that though he may not be able to assist everyone, he could help one person and then another and so it goes on, as Frederic said, "If we are too young to intervene in the social struggle, are we then to remain passive in the middle of a world which is suffering and groaning? No, a preparatory path is open to us. Before doing public good, we can try to do good to a few...We can give relief to a few of her poor."
This young man also understood that in order to render true and sincere charity it must begin by making the giver, the servant of the poor. This is the central core and the entire heart of authentic charity, for it is not about what we give but why we give. This is the central theme, to give from from our hearts to those whose hearts have been broken by life and its cruelties.
Charity is spirit and unless we understand this we will fail to fulfill its Divine purpose, which is not to make your life better but to enrich others by giving them your full attention and love. We can all speak of charity but if that is all we do, then it is mere empty words in a world which has grown bloated with self importance and 'catchy phraseology'.
The next time you see a homeless lady or gentlemen will you be one of the turning away? Or will you be the one who came back?
Written by Marie