I read Mr. Tradleners commentary on freeloaders with interest. I want to begin by expressing my respect for a man who is hard working, self-reliant, and resourceful.
Some may look at another person, presuming to possess the insight to judge him or her. I say it is impossible to know what any soul has gone through in order that he or she think or feel or behave in any certain way. I will leave the prerogative of judgment to someone else. Rather than condemn, I find it more useful to take the opportunity to make a difference in another human life. What other stance could make life richer?
No one wants to be a street person. No one chooses such pursuit as a career. We hold an extremely limited model of the human mind should we see no further than the will. There are forces in this world which we little suspect exist, yet which move us in ways which we are seldom aware. I dare not judge, but find it more spiritually gratifying, rather, to consider: There but for the grace of God go I! and strive to offer what I can to those in need.
What I have worked for, I have tried to receive in gratitude rather than in pride and possessiveness. And if someone works less and possesses more, it is all right with me. I have even more than I need. I dont judge any person on the basis of possessions. Let every man drive a more desirable vehicle than I. And lest I be accused of being a communist, I am reminded that it was Marx who was concerned with formulas as to who was to receive what from whom based upon the donation of labor.
I once heard a prayer over a meal that blessed all who had worked to put the food on the table as well as those who had not worked. Perhaps it is through the indiscriminate sharing of our bread with others that bounty is truly blessed. As long as I can provide, all are welcome at my table: the mentally ill, the physically disabled, as well as those who have not worked: freeloaders, loafers and bums, too, if such labels are to be applied. Did the Good Samaritan inquire as to the employment status of the man he helped, or expect anything in return? For those of us who are Christians or people of other good faith, there is always the presence of Spirit in the hand that reaches out, as was so often spoken of by Mother Theresa.
There will always be fraudulent behavior within our midst, yet better that the fraudulent receive through misguided impulse toward equity and justice than that one citizen among us who needs the help of all be turned away. I believe it was St. Francis who noted that it is the presence of the poorest among us who shames us all. Let those who are disabled receive help from his or her community that he or she might recover, become productive once again and be rendered fit to extend a hand to the next to fall a value made visible by responsible citizens through their support of the Bridge Emergency Shelter, offered freely rather than as freebies. I say to do otherwise is to live out ones existence within the jungle; I implore each of us to consider that only a stance of charity and compassion ensures the only possible future of our country, the future of any sustainable society.
I submit that it is not so much the presence of bums, freeloaders and loafers who are weakening our nation as it is those who would divide us against each other as a result of the present widespread epidemic of the illnesses of the heart: jealousy, resentment, entitlement and territoriality. Resentment of those who have not labored arises as a result of our having despised the experience of our own labor, rather than having given of it freely. May we all learn to offer freely of our labor as well as its fruits. I consider it to be a blessing and an honor to be able to share the fruits of my labor and good fortune with my neighbors.
When I prepare to leave this earth, may I be far less concerned with how much property I have protected than how many other souls to whom I have had the opportunity to reach out, hopefully to render a difference in their lives.
I am happy to see those who are cold with nowhere to go warming themselves in the lobby of the rec center. I only wish our communitys limited budget could render a multiplicity of comfortable chairs. Wasnt there once an admonition from a wise man urging us, should we have two coats to give one away? (Luke 3:11) Perhaps he was a socialist!
We will either live together as brothers or die together as fools, it has been said. Human life and its successful fulfillment appear best attained through community enterprise and cooperation, as exemplified by the Cortez rec center and as exemplified by The Bridge Emergency Shelter. Cortez is not a jungle. As long as I am living in this community, no one will die alone in the cold darkness. I am my brothers keeper.
James A. Mischke, of Cortez, is a retired professor.