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  • TRUE STORIES: Uncaging our kindness

  • Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. — Matthew 25:40

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  • Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. — Matthew 25:40
    Just in case you missed Andrew Nash’s telling article last week on poverty here in the Four States — or Jeremy Johnson’s reflective letter to the editor on the subject a couple of days ago — here’s the skinny: We have a lot of poor people here in Crawford County; one in five. That’s 7,800. And it’s not their fault.
    Nash’s article opened with the reality that the freezers and cupboards are empty at the food pantry provided at Wesley House, which was founded over 20 years ago as an outreach program of the First United Methodist Church of Pittsburg to serve people in need — both spiritually and socially — in an ecumenically-conscious environment.
    I especially like their “ecumenically-conscious” mission, which translates to “promoting friendly relations between different religious.” This speaks volumes to the issue at hand, for just as — in the words of Mahatma Ghandi — “God has no religion” … neither does hunger.
    Thomas Merton scholar, Jonathan Montaldo says it like this, “We must, for the health of our collective souls, uncage our kindness from the narrow selves of our immediate family and friends. We must leap over the wall from the enclosed monasteries of meanness that divide our world into the precious few who are saved, while the rest of them — not our kind at all — go unwashed in the blood of the lamb. We must convert ourselves to kindness in all relationships as a daily spiritual practice."
    As Jeremy Johnson pointed out in his letter to the editor, we tend to stay in the same social class through generations – poor people remain poor and middle class people remain middle class. It’s a socioeconomic fact.
    Said another way, it would be no more realistic to say poverty stricken people remain poor because they are “lazy” as to say that middle class people fail to become members of the upper class (the 1 percent) because they are “lazy.”
    To be sure the middle class is suffering mightily because of the economic slowdown, the housing crash, and the 2008 banking and stock market debacle. But most of us have the education and support system to struggle through it, whereas the poor have little or no higher education and training — not to mention a more acutely stressed support system.
    Not that poor people don’t show a propensity to help one another. Recent studies indicate that there's a culture of compassion and cooperation among lower-class individuals that may be born out of threats to their well being; that people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds may do better in cooperative settings than members of the upper class.
    Page 2 of 2 - Nash’s article also outlined the devastating effect the vicious cycle of poverty has on our educational system and physical health & mental health providers. Problems that are reflected in the record numbers of free and reduced lunches provided in schools and people being seen at the Community Health Center of SEK and the Crawford County Health Dept. (I know from conversations with providers at Crawford County Mental Health, SafeHouse, Inc., and SRS, that they are swamped as well.)
    Wesley House does all it can to address these issues by providing a free medical clinic for the uninsured, case management services, free household items, free dinners on Thursdays, seasonal assistance, a public telephone, showers, and a place of fellowship for friends — in addition to the free food pantry.
    Speaking of which, I stopped by their office this week and asked the Director, Ellie Foster, what was currently most needed on their shelves.
    Her answer: peanut butter, cereal, canned ravioli or spaghetti, and large diapers. Those wanting to contribute can bring these items, or any other non-perishables, to Wesley House, which is located at 411 E. 12th, during regular business hours (phone 232-3720). Though she didn’t mention it, I’m sure you could also send a monetary contribution by mail.
    In closing, here’s something noted death and dying author, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, said in the book “Graceful Passages” on the subject of kindness … and what will be asked of us as when we die.
    “When you make your transition you are asked two things basically: How much love you have been able to give and receive, and how much service you have rendered. And you will know every consequence of every deed, every thought, and every word you have ever uttered. And that is, symbolically speaking, going through hell will be when you see how many chances you have missed. But you will also see how a nice act of kindness has touched hundreds of lives that you’re totally unaware of.”
    J.T. Knoll is a writer, speaker and prevention and wellness coordinator at Pittsburg State University. He also operates Knoll Training, Consulting & Counseling Services in Pittsburg. He can be reached at 231-0499. Gist - Know more about who you know

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