I don't understand how our society can be so full of unmet needs, and still have such frivolous wants. Or how we believe that giving someone something that we want will somehow make them feel better, even if they have needs that aren't met.
I have a wonderful pastor friend who is making a huge difference in Nicaragua and Haiti. He saw mission trips going to these poverty-stricken areas and engaging with the residents -- putting on a bible school for the kids, painting a building -- you know the routine. He said he was in the dump in Managua, where about 1,000 people were living, and felt like a hypocrite. Dozens of mission-trip folks would talk to the dump residents, express sorrow at their living conditions, and offer them a mint. OK, maybe not a mint, maybe a good meal, but still, the problem wasn't being address. Pastor Ron started a church and a school and a free meal program, and his organization now provides micro-loans so people can pull themselves out of the deepest poverty and create small incomes for their families' needs. It's brilliant.
So I'm sitting in my booth downtown, in the south waterfront area that is better than it was but still an area of poverty and desperation, and the people walking by want brownies. They don't see the woman crouched in a doorway ten feet away, wrapped in an old tarp against the wind and rain. Several of them donate an extra dollar, because they know I'll make soup and then these people will at least have a hot meal. But the real problem remains, and we feel powerless to solve it.
Other cities are building mini houses for their homeless populations, including medical clinics, free or cheap cafeterias, and small markets. Some are redesigning their park benches to convert into covered beds at night. Most are recognizing that we have a responsibility to our poverty-stricken residents, and are doing their best to address the situation.
I want. But I don't want sweets. I don't want trinkets or souvenirs or fancy coffee drinks. I want a solution. I want to be the food provider in the mini-house village that our city provides to our street people. I want to walk through downtown with my head high, knowing that I'm doing something that matters. When I see someone on the street, I want to be able to tell them where there's a warm, dry place to sleep. A cup of soup and a pair of socks are nice, but they're still just a band-aid.
The problem isn't just hunger. It's inhumanity. As George Bernard Shaw said, "The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that's the essence of inhumanity."
We are not helpless against inhumanity though. Each of us can embrace what Alan Paton said, "There is only one way in which one can endure man's inhumanity to man and that is to try, in one's own life, to exemplify man's humanity to man." Ah, that's what I want -- humanity. I want to embrace, represent, express, and spread humanity. One brownie at a time.