Rev. Rich Lang
If you live on the edge, there’s a way back from the brink
I received another call today. This time from a woman with a four-year-old daughter. They needed $80 to pay the rent. I suspect she was just calling random churches because she’d already checked out some agencies. But it always strikes me as a bit odd that folks seem to think that random calls produce results. It’s as if folks think that since churches are in the people-helping business, because God is certainly in the people-helping business, one can simply pick up the phone or drop into a church and say, “Can I have some money?” Am I expected to say, “Oh, sure. How much, how often? No problem?”
Here’s the point of today’s column: If you are living anywhere near the edge, then by all means, get involved in a local faith community today — as in right now. Get involved and make yourself known, participate in the shared life of worship, study, fellowship and service. If you are living on the edge, particularly in this society that is undergoing the start of austerity, you need to be part of a community of care. If you’re not personally religious, then find a different community, because we are only going to get through the storm together. Random phone calls and sudden appearances to request aid isn’t a very useful strategy. Despite the scandals of a few maniacs out there, churches for the most part are struggling, too. In other words: We don’t have 80 bucks for every phone call we get, and we get lots of phone calls.
But when you’re someone whose name is known, a friend with whom one has broken bread, a co-volunteer serving in the nursery together, someone with whom another has read sacred scripture, or hammered nails in a Habitat for Humanity service project, when you’ve shared life together, scrapping together 80 bucks isn’t charity but sacrificial, religious devotion.
Now, I can hear the objection. I know the self-righteous will say that we religious folk ought to feel that for everybody. And that’s true. But what’s also true is that the need is far greater than our resources. I can open up my wallet for a woman with a toddler every once in a while, but not every time. And when I start getting to know folks who have need for what’s in my wallet, then I am more apt to sacrifice for those I know than for those I don’t know. I’m not justifying this. I’m just saying it’s how things really work.
We’re in tough times, and if you are living on the edge, then stop reading this column and start getting involved in a community of care. Do it now. Do it immediately. Get involved and participate, because the edge you live on today could be severed tomorrow as austerity increases and resources dwindle away.
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