Cardinal O’Brien has added his voice to that of an increasing number of people concerned about the rise of poverty in the ‘affluent and mighty West’.
Whether you are a regular person, fortunate enough to have a good job, or a major philanthropist pondering how to make a difference in the lives of many, try to spare a private thought for those whose existence has been blighted – nay, threatened – by the maelstrom the collective economy of the West has been plunged into.
Try and remember that we are all capable of at least one truly selfless act in a lifetime and that such an act can redeem us in our own eyes, in the eyes of all those who share our lives and, if you have faith, in the eyes of God too.
Forget about the political sniping, the passing of the proverbial buck, the blame game which may be good for making quick “capital” of one’s economic or political opponents… Focus instead on how you personally can help alleviate the woes of large segments of people stricken by the most brutal recession in living memory.
Obvious, raw and absolute poverty is often taken care of by the state – at least in a capitalist democracy – often inadequately, but in a basic, institutionalized way.
It is the hidden poverty that we worry about – the poverty many bear as a shameful cross, trying to keep a brave face on their reduced circumstances and soldier on in the hope of a brighter future.
Spare a thought for the new poor – those who are educated but can’t find a job; those for whom rising inflation equals poor nutrition; those who can’t afford new clothes or shoes for their children and have defaulted to the charity shops in droves; those who have to make a daily choice between using public transport and walking; those who get hopelessly indebted to implacable, profit-making utility companies, just because they choose to keep their homes warm in the winter; those who default to soup kitchens at the end of each month just so they can pay the rent….
The old adage of ‘Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for life’ still holds true to some extent but today, we also need to sell ‘the fish’, so that we can do a little better than subsisting.
The opportunities to help others without humiliating them with a handout are countless.
Investing in another person’s work, talent, skills, acquired intelligence, may pay dividends you’ve never dreamed of. Or it may just help them preserve their dignity and hope – as well as put bread on their table.
Compassion, of course, has its own less tangible dividends – it is what makes us human.
For goodness’ sake, be compassionate!
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