Tag Archives: Poverty

Stop. Just Stop.

Honestly, I hadn’t been following the Ferguson story very closely until just a couple of days ago. I knew what was going on but hadn’t been keeping up with it in the News. However, I think I knew enough to give an at least somewhat educated opinion on the whole thing.

We were watching the other night when they made the decision to not press charges against officer Wilson. I had the suspicion they wouldn’t, and I had the suspicion that things were going to get really messy really fast. I was correct. There are people on either side of the argument who believe that justice was not served. Here is what I think:

I think Mike Brown really did rob a liquor store. I don’t know, based on the evidence, whether he assaulted the officer or not. I also think that the officer could have stopped him without using the amount of force that he did. As far as I know, he shot at Mike Brown 10 or 11 times, and honestly, that sounds excessive. Do I think he did that because he was racist? I don’t know. Do I think that he did it because he was scared? I don’t know. I think in that situation they were probably both scared.

Regardless of what really happened, people are rioting. People are destroying businesses and steeling things. This kind of behavior doesn’t solve problems, and it doesn’t make anything better. It doesn’t change the fact that officer Wilson got off free. It doesn’t change the fact that a young man–my brother’s age–got killed. Honestly, these people are just perpetuating the problems. They are pitting police against civilians and blacks against whites, and they are not offering any kind of solution. This is a free country, and it’s completely reasonable for people to offer their opinions.

The fact of the matter is, though, that people need to listen. People need to honestly pay attention to what their fellow countrymen and women are saying, and they need to try and compromise. I don’t live in Ferguson, so I don’t know the situation well enough to make judgments, but there is an obvious problem there: otherwise people wouldn’t be making such a mess. Some would like to argue that race is no longer a problem in our country, and that’s simply not true. I think it’s much less of a problem than it once was; and it’s a much more subtle problem in many cases, but there still needs to be change. There will likely always need to be change. However, I think there more underlying problems that are actually more pressing.

Poverty and problems in the public educational system need to be addressed. Certain demographics tend to fall under the poverty line, and these same demographics tend to get a worse educational experience. The government has been attempting to standardize education, and maybe this helps a little, but in other ways is causes more good than harm. Not all students are capable of learning the same way, and I don’t think this is the answer. We we really need is well educated, well motivated teachers who are willing and able to come together and work in schools where there have historically been problems and negligence. Colleges need to work with these schools and work with their potential teachers, and it needs to start in elementary schools. Furthermore, they need to find ways of teaching that aren’t going to cost lots and lots of money.

Parents also need to be taking more of an interest in their children’s educations. Obviously it’s very difficult to stress this enough to the parents themselves, but people need to find a way. They can’t just keep making excuses and taking the easy way out. Children simply shouldn’t be made to drop out of high school because their families want them to work. Obviously there are cases where there is simply no other way for the family to survive. Perhaps schools should provide night classes.

Education and poverty are very closely linked. If people are well educated, they will be more likely to get a well paying job and will therefore be able to help their children move a head or help their community in some other way. Engineers and technology oriented people are in high demand right now. Perhaps schools in poorer communities should be encouraging their students to pursue these kinds of interests.

These changes are slow and not nearly as satisfying as breaking windows, but breaking windows doesn’t solve problems. Actually, it just makes the people who do it look like a bunch violent assholes. I want them to know that. They’re not doing any good by being violent and stupid. What they are doing is incredibly stupid. It’s not helpful, and it’s not kind; it’s not loving, and it’s the exact opposite of what Mike Brown’s parents what them to be doing. I hope they read this and know that what they’re doing is pointless.

I understand that very few people who are doing this are completely malicious. Some people are just frustrated, and some people are caught up in the hype. I just ask that they would stop and think about what they are doing. They are hurting innocent people who wanted nothing to do with this. Change can happen.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

I’ve Been Thoroughly Educated, Thank You Very Much

Last night I went to see Tenth Avenue North. It was an absolutely amazing night. My dad and I got there early because we had VIP tickets so we could meet the band. They’re a bunch of super nice, funny guys, and their music is fantastic. What’s more is, since we got there early, we got to grab whatever spot we wanted in the entire chapel (this was at my school). We were literally touching the stage. It was a little claustrophobic because it was a sold out show and everyone wanted to be up front, but it was just so much fun.

What I love about their music, though is that it’s super fun to just listen to, but it also gets me thinking. I like things that make me think. I like to be challenged sometimes; not just entertained. Anyway, what was super awesome is that their new album doesn’t officially come out until tomorrow, but they had copies available at the show, so I snagged one.

They have one song on the new album–I forget which one, but there’s a few lines that go:

Forgive me
Forgive me, Lord
For living
Like I’m not yours

And I had it stuck in my head as I was going to sleep last night.

Today I’ve been sort of antsy. I feel like I need to be doing something, but I don’t know what that something is. I do need to be doing homework, but that’s beside the point.

As part of their show, Tenth Ave talks a little bit about Compassion International, partly because they sponsor a few kids through that organization, and partly as a promotional thing to try and get some of us interested. They talked about it last year when I saw them, Rend Collective talked about them when I saw them a few weeks ago, and Tenth Ave talked about them again last night. They’re not obnoxious about it, and they don’t try and guilt anyone into doing anything. It’s just important to them. It still makes me feel guilty, though.

It makes me feel guilty for weird reasons. Firstly, I mentioned this before, but I take things that Jesus said very literally, and he said that we ought to help the poor. Secondly, I am in a very weird financial position at the moment. I am the daughter of a guy who is a successful banker, and who makes a lot–I mean a LOT of money. He’s paying for my brother and me to go to college, and when we graduate, we will have borrowed nothing. By that standard you could say I’m ridiculously wealthy. However, if I wasn’t leaching off my parents, I’m not sure I’d be able to support myself. I’d probably manage, but it would be pretty tough. That said, I think I’d still be in the top 1% of the world. By American standards I’m broke. By world standards, I’m filthy rich. It’s confusing. Thirdly, I don’t feel called to help the poor. I feel called to make peace.

For one thing, I’m good at it. I’ve been able to help fix at least a couple nasty relationships, and I’ve actually been able to help a few people be a bit more optimistic about humanity in general. What I really want to do is help people make peace with God. I didn’t feel like I had courage enough to do that until recently, but I really want to now, and I’m not afraid to talk about it and write blatantly obvious songs about it. I’m convinced that the world is good and people are inherently good. I’ve just encountered so much pessimism and anger about the state of the world that I feel like I should do something about it.

Part of being a peacemaker is getting people to understand that we’re all on equal footing, and getting people to love each other. Loving each other means helping each other, so really, helping the poor is part of that.

The reason I bring up the Tenth Ave quote is that I feel like I haven’t been doing this lately. I’ve written a few blog posts, but beyond that I’ve just been coasting. I’ve been wasting a lot of time on the internet or playing video games when I could be researching music stuff or doing homework. Homework isn’t directly related to being a peacemaker, but I need to get through this semester, and I do feel like I owe it to God to try and do well in school. Lately I’ve just wanted to be lazy, and I guess that’s normal, but it doesn’t make it right.

I’m just finding it hard to really take a whole lot of interest in my work this semester. I’m just not finding my classes all that interesting, and I kind of feel like it’s an obligatory waste of time. I want to work and make money and do things that will actually make a difference in the world. I’ve sort of been struggling with this for about two years now, and I guess it’s getting to a point where I really need to be done with school. A lot of people have been asking me if I want to go to grad school. The answer is “no.” I’ve been thoroughly educated, thank you very much. Now I’d like to put that education to good use.

Because in my world, guinea pigs can fly!

Hope Is Together

Today marks the beginning of Lent. I read the Pope’s sermon for today, which I thought was quite good, and I went to an Ash Wednesday service at my church earlier this evening. The overall theme of the day was, of course, self sacrifice and giving to the poor. Another part of Lent is trying to become closer to God through prayer and/or reading scripture. Of course, every year everyone is urged to give something up or do something new to try and help themselves or the larger community.

At first I thought I might give up video games, but I hardly play video games anymore anyway. Then I thought I’d try and commit myself more to my music project, but again, I’ve already started doing that. Then I decided that I would try and do something bigger. In one of my classes we’ve been talking about literature related to slavery in America. We’ve been talking mostly in the context of African American slavery in the Civil War era, but one of my classmates mentioned that a percentage of people in America are still enslaved today. I mean, I guess I already knew that– maybe I had heard about it somewhere a long time ago and it was floating around in the back of my mind, but for some reason it really got under my skin and downright pissed me off, quite frankly.

When Dad and I got back from church earlier tonight I looked up modern slavery in America. I stared at the Google results, and looked at a couple websites, and then I realized something. I haven’t done anything about big, overwhelming problems like this in the past partly because big, overwhelming problems like this scare me. I feel absolutely helpless when I look at problems like the conflicts in the Middle East, or AIDS in Africa, or human trafficking in America, India or anywhere else. I feel so hopeless when I read about people who suffer from depression or know someone who has committed suicide or hear that my best friend is in the hospital again because she had another relapse. In short, the suffering of other people really affects me.

The speaker at our chapel service at school today was a pastor at an Evangelical church nearby. He was one of those guys who get really passionate when talking about Christ and tend to yell. Admittedly, it’s a little much for me, especially since I made the mistake of sitting in the front row today. Something he said, however, seemed very right, or true to me, for lack of a better word. He said that hope is communal. It is stronger when people are hoping for something together. I think that’s true of prayer as well. It feels more powerful and authentic when people pray together. I’ve experienced this with my friend at the recording studio. We’ve adopted the practice of praying before sessions, and man does it work.

I told myself a long time ago that I was going to devote myself to prayer because it seems to be the way in which I can be most helpful to the world right now. Well, I didn’t really do that as well as I would have liked, so I think I’m going to do that over Lent, and hopefully continue to do it in the future. I just need to make sure I spend a certain amount of time every day focusing on nothing but prayer and devotion. I think really good things will come of it. Despite everything that goes on in this messy world, I am still very hopeful, and I hope you guys are too.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Share Your Pizza

On Friday night I had to go into Boston for work and then I met my parents for dinner at a pizza place. After dinner I had a little over half a pizza left since I was bad and had a pumpkin spice latte at work (I have an easy job). On the way back to the car we walked right past a homeless guy who was sitting on the sidewalk, and after we got in the car I thought, “Crap! I could have given him the rest of my pizza!” It wouldn’t have been a long walk, and I could have gone back and given it to him, but I didn’t. I felt bad about it the whole way home, and I prayed that God would send someone nicer than me to share their pizza with that guy.

When I was a junior in high school (I’m a junior in college now) I attended a summer program at Berklee College of Music. There were a lot of homeless guys hanging around there, and at the time I was a broke high school student, but I heard a lot of people were buying them water bottles or sandwiches or what have you. I grew up being told that a lot of people were homeless because the probably deserved it; they were probably drug addicts or criminals, so I shouldn’t give them any money. I don’t believe that anyone doesn’t deserve help anymore. Everyone deserves help because no matter who they are or what they’ve done, they are God’s children and my brothers and sisters. Maybe it’s better not to give some of them money, but it can’t hurt anyone to share some pizza.

My point is; don’t pass these people by. Too many people do, including myself, and nothing can change if they don’t get help. They need someone to care about them. We don’t have to single-handedly save the world, but we can lend a hand every now and then. Maybe you will be the nicer person that I prayed for. Please share your pizza next time you pass someone who looks like they need it.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

The Bystander Effect

Yesterday in my philosophy class we talked about the bystander effect. We talked about how a group of people will stand and watch a child drown purely because there are other people there. People seem to have a mentality of “no one else is helping, why should I?” It’s why the genocide of the Jews in Germany was even possible.

It’s also why there are millions of starving children in the wold. We talked about how it seems that a person who is able to help should be morally obligated to from an egalitarian viewpoint. We talked about how people act based on social norms and an innate sense of self preservation and how this does not  seem to correlate with egalitarianism or a common sense of compassion.

It disturbed me a little in class, but we have talked about this kind of thing numerous times before in other classes mainly on a theoretical level. It sunk in however when I read an add in the school bulletin that gets sent out once a day via email. A girl was asking for help with a public speaking project she had coming up and I almost replied, but then I thought, “Well, she probably already has several other people offering to help her and I’m busy.” It is midterms. What if everyone else was “too busy” as well? I most likely have a few hours to spare some time this week. Am I morally obligated to help that girl?

Something else struck me today. I remembered that Jesus said, “The poor will always be with you.” Why? Is it because people aren’t helping? Is it because of economic or social structures, as some would argue? Do they bring poverty upon themselves? Is it forced upon them? What bothers me most is that word always. Is there nothing we can do to stop it? Is poverty an undying force that can’t be stopped?

A question that plenty of people deal with all the time is; why, if God is good does he allow suffering? I don’t have an answer to that. Everyone suffers in one way or another. It’s because we live in an imperfect world. What I really don’t get is why some people suffer WAY more than others. What’s more is that often times, the more people suffer, the stronger their faith is. In fact, many people bring suffering upon themselves to strengthen their spiritual life. The thing about our God is that he suffered for us, and he suffers with us. I know that, but I don’t entirely know what it means. God is with us and he is with us in our suffering, but what does it mean that he suffers too? I think if I could figure that out I would understand a lot of other things as well.

Last semester in my creative nonfiction writing class I read a short piece called “Being Christ to the Traveler.” In short it was about a guy who offers to hold a drunk guy’s flowers while he pees out the door of a train (the guy had evidently just broken up with his girlfriend). We can help anyone by doing little things like that, but it takes so much more to help the poor or the people dying of AIDS over in Africa.

The thing is, I basically don’t have anything saved. If it weren’t for my parents I’d be dead on the street somewhere, but as it stands I live in an awesome house in a nice, safe neighborhood, I go to a super nice college and took guitar lessons for five years. I personally am very poor. I have a part time job, but because of school and music I don’t work much and I make peanuts; actually less than peanuts.

All the money I’ve saved or that I make goes to recording my first album, and that’s where I’m conflicted. My plan/hope is to be able to live off of music and have a little extra to send to charities, etc. What we talked about in my philosophy class was this; is it more morally right to take the money one spends on college/recording/whatever and just give that to charity, or should one wait, go through college/recording/gigging/whatever and ultimately be able to do much more and help many more people? I don’t know.

I guess a good compromise is to help who you can when you can, how you can, but I don’t think it’s quite as satisfying as being able to say you got a kid out of poverty. I guess we’re not supposed to look for satisfaction out of helping people. Again, I’m probably thinking about this too much.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!