Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Homeless in America

I recently happened across a wonderfully informative blog called Homeless in America. I have added it to my blogroll and invite you to consider doing the same. Below is just one of the interesting posts that you can find there. This one came from October 10. Many thanks to Br. Gary for allowing me to re-post it here word for word. If you have any time at all, please click on the link to see more of the posts -- they are all inspiring, both in terms of what others have done or in terms of what we should consider doing. Now, here is that post:

"It’s a story nothing short of amazing. A handful of homeless men lifted a 2 ton Cadillac off a little girl who was pinned beneath it. One of the heroes is a New Mexico man (photo) who credits his tribal heritage for saving the girl’s life.

The man who helped save 9-year-old Robyn Rubio’s life is not only tearful, but humble when he talks about his act of bravery.

“I don’t want to be called a hero,” said Stanford Washburn.

Washburn, a person who has nothing, gave everything he had to rescue Robyn. He even credits his Navajo heritage with saving her life.

“I chanted for her, ‘Please don’t leave us, be with us, be well, be well.’ That’s my chant,” said Washburn.

Washburn calls Shiprock, N.M., his home, but right now he’s homeless. The rescue took place while he was drinking in an alley near the Las Vegas strip in Nevada when he saw a Cadillac hit Robyn head-on. Washburn and several other transients jumped up and ran to help, miraculously lifting the 5,000 pound car off of Robin’s tiny body.

“I know she was scared, I know she was real scared,” said Tina Rubio, Robyn’s mother. Her daughter had to undergo treatment many days in intensive care.

What Robyn will know one day is that a homeless man from New Mexico saved her life. But it’s likely he won’t be the one to tell her. He’s much too humble.

“I’m just one of you guys, a red-blooded human being,” said Washburn.

A spokesperson for the Las Vegas Police Department said he doubts the men could have picked up the car if a child had not been underneath it. They also said it shows how humans regardless of their circumstances react to saving a life."

- From Homeless in America

Monday, October 18, 2010

Helping Afghanistan

"For the last 25 years, Afghanistan has been plagued by disasters ranging from drought and earthquakes to war and terrorism. Afghans face low life expectancy, high illiteracy rates, and limited access to clean water, sanitation and electricity. Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. Today, as the country takes steps toward recovery." This is the introduction to Afghanistan on the Catholic Relief Services' website.

If I had any thought that this description might be exaggerated, that thought would have been shattered by my recent visit to Afghanistan. (Not with CRS; I had a different mission there.) Here are some of my observations, reported on 100th Lamb:
I had seen pictures of Afghanistan -- the dusty desert, the musty mountains. It seems that life of any sort -- animal or plant or human -- has an incredible struggle to live. Dusty feet in worn, torn sandals walked the streets where I was. In Kabul, there were similar sightings, but there were also cars, many of them, old but running. There was the constant lowering of men's eyes and the shuffling of women within burqas. (One Afghan wanted to put a burqa on me and take me home to his family. That would have been risky for both of us, so I declined what might have been an interesting cultural experience.) Good food at good prices with good service was the norm in restaurants, but these were things mainly for foreigners. I found essentially two classes: the haves and the have-nots. As always, there is potential in that disharmony for violence. And certainly violence can be found there. The Afghan is perhaps best described as a soft soul in a hard shell. As a foreigner, one wonders which of the hard shells are safe to attempt to break open and which are not. More than anything, I wanted to help these people, but there is little that one person can do, so I just lent my professional expertise, which is really all I have to give anyone. (I suspect that any side that can give these people jobs and a life
that allows just a little peace and even a tad of comfort will win the current war.)

In leaving the country, I had some time to talk to the Safi (Afghani Airlines) ticket agent on an interpersonal level because a traveling companion took our luggage to be strapped -- his had broken enroute to Dubai and, having repaired it, he did not want a repeat on the way home. I told the agent that we had brought some work stuff with us in a foot locker that was overweight so that he would be prepared to expect the overweight. We had come early so that we would have time to deal with overweight requirements and fees. (We had to pay $400 enroute to Afghanistan in overweight fees.) When my travel companion (another employee of our organization) brought the luggage over, the agent weighed each piece, marked it, and gave us the baggage tag, along with our tickets. When I asked where to go to pay the overweight fee, he looked at me and said simply, "I have waived the fee; that is Afghanistan's gift to you."

All I could think was that it is always seems to be the people with the least who give the most. Thank you, Afghanistan! I will be praying for you, for all your people -- those that might be considered friends and those that might be considered foes. That will be my gift to you.

If anyone has the desire or is given the urge to help the people of Afghanistan, here again is the website of Catholic Relief Services: CRS.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Where in the World Is Elizabeth?

I just thought of an interesting little competition. While I am gone tripping, please leave a comment, guessing where you think I am and why. And since I will not have access to the Internet, no one will see anyone's answers until I return so there will be no influence one upon another!

I will send a surprise gift to everyone who guesses correctly.

This will be fun, no?

Friday, October 1, 2010

From the Washington Post , Of Concern to All

The following article from The Washington Post opened my eyes. I had no idea that we, in the USA, have moved so quickly and so far along the path to a banana republic situation where the middle class gets squeezed down or up, leaving only the haves and have-nots. If we pay no attention to the have-nots as a country, we may lose more than our sense of humanity.

As 44 million Americans live in poverty, a crisis grows
By Katrina vanden Heuvel
Tuesday, September 28, 2010

When the government released new U.S. Census data on poverty last week, our warp-speed news cycle paid too little attention to what these numbers tell us -- and what the government could do to tackle this moral, economic and political crisis. It's clear that the Great Recession battered those on the bottom most heavily, adding 6 million people to the ranks of the officially poor, defined as just $22,000 in annual income for a family of four. Forty-four million Americans -- one in seven citizens -- are now living below the poverty line, more than at any time since the Census Bureau began tracking poverty 51 years ago. Shamefully, that figure includes one in five children, more than one in four African Americans or Latinos, and over 51 percent of female-headed families with children under 6.

These numbers are bad enough. But dig deeper -- as Georgetown University law professor Peter Edelman has been doing for nearly 50 years in his battle against poverty -- and the story told by these figures is even more staggering.

Edelman points out that 19 million people are now living in "extreme poverty," which is under 50 percent of the poverty line, or $11,000 for a family of four. "That means over 43 percent of the poor are extremely poor," said Edelman, who served as an aide to Sen. Robert Kennedy (D-N.Y.) and in the Clinton administration before resigning in protest over welfare reform that shredded the safety net. "That's over 6 percent of the population, and that figure has just been climbing up and up."

Edelman says that the number of people living at less than two times the poverty line ($44,000 for a family of four) is equally significant.

"Data shows that's really the line between whether or not you can pay your bills," said Edelman. "That has reached 100,411,000 people. That's 33 percent of the country. That's the totality of the problem -- whether you call it poverty or not."

For too long we have accepted the narrative -- promoted by well-funded conservative think tanks -- that claims people who are struggling are to blame for their troubles, and at the same time we don't have effective anti-poverty policies. So tackling the problem is seen as wasteful.

"So many people think it's their own fault," said Edelman. "They don't see the structural problem in our economy."

But with so many in poverty, that narrative has become harder to sustain during the Great Recession, and so renewed work is being done to take on poverty and its structural underpinnings.

Half in Ten, a coalition working to cut poverty by half in 10 years, is pushing Congress to renew the TANF Emergency Fund , which is set to expire on Thursday. Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia have used the program to provide 250,000 low-income and long-term unemployed workers with subsidized jobs. The coalition is also pushing to make the Obama administration's Recovery Act reforms to the child tax credit and the earned-income tax credit permanent. These progressive policies keep families from falling into poverty and reduce long-term costs such as crime, public benefits and lost consumption. Estimates of costs associated with childhood poverty run at $500 billion annually, or 4 percent of gross domestic product.

And then there are the Bush tax cuts for those making over $250,000 a year, a centerpiece of the GOP's just-released "Pledge to America." Edelman says that it's difficult to see how we can help the 44 million Americans living in poverty today without that revenue.

Beyond what Congress can do immediately, it's clear that America needs a broader movement to create a more just and higher-wage economy. Edelman and other advocates say that we will need to push to make it easier for people to join labor unions through an Employee Free Choice Act or at least reduce legal barriers to organizing. The minimum wage should also be indexed to half the average wage.

"But you're still going to have a gap," said Edelman. "And you essentially have to invent some new idea of a wage supplement that starts from the premise that the so-called good jobs went away a long time ago and we've become a nation of low-wage work."

That's why 100 million people are struggling to make ends meet on less than $44,000 per year.

This devastating economic reality has the potential to create new political alliances -- and shape a 21st-century anti-poverty movement. Such a movement is urgently needed because the voices of the poor, of workers and of those struggling to get by are barely heard in the halls of power these days. Anti-poverty groups and advocates with ideas for a more equitable economy are often marginalized within even Democratic Party policy circles that seem hard-wired to reject them.

We know what needs to be done to reduce poverty. The question is who will fight that fight? And who will listen?