Monday, November 21, 2011

Who's Responsible for the Poor?

Andy Cook 2002
Thank you for the public image Andy

I had one of those heart stopping double takes when I was driving up an on-ramp in Memphis, Tennessee last weekend. I saw and elderly man who looked as if he was barely able to stand at the side of the road. A metal cane was clutched in his right hand and a suitcase was on the ground to his left. His brow was furrowed with deep groves in the shape of a lifetime of worry. His eyes looked directly into mine as if to say, 'How could you possibly drive by without stopping?'

I have seen some scruffy old hitch-hikers before, but this scene was all wrong. He was much too old and frail to be standing alone. His thumb was not out, no sign, and I had the feeling that he didn't know why he was standing there. I couldn't help wondering if someone had just dropped him off there only moments before. I was about to be late to my bead show and if I am late the promoters will fine me at least $100. There really wasn't much choice though, I had to pull over. Just as I put on my turn signal I saw a police car pull up to him in my rear view mirror. Thank God!

I really don't know whether it was bad luck or bad life choices that brought him to that place at that point in his life. Recently, I have heard several people argue that if we don't allow people to suffer the consequences of their bad life choices then society will have to suffer the eternal burden of their welfare. I just can't imagine myself driving by that old man and thinking to myself, 'tough luck, you must have screwed up.' For me, each of those welfare recipients has a face and a story and unless I know the story how could I say you are not worthy of help?

All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness. The important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.
-Dalai Lama

May you all have a bountiful Thanksgiving!