Monday, August 25, 2008

Ridicule vs. Compassion

If you read the "Compulsive Planning" piece I linked to in my last post, maybe you saw the link provided for Heather Ryan's two essays, also about making ends meet? Heather is a divorced woman with three children who met with hard times when she had to pay $1800/mo. for childcare during the summer months. Her ex-husband paid her less than $600 month in child support, and although she earned decent pay and good benefits as a secretary, she found herself using food pantries through the summer, and one time, even a soup kitchen. She holds an advanced degree in writing, and was an excellent, award-earning student. Yet she found herself part of the ever-growing working poor. Her friends, somehow hearing of the trouble, provided her with grocery store gift cards. Due to their generosity she made it through the rest of the summer with only the one soup kitchen visit.

I can't tell you how appalled I was at some of the comments she received, in response to her essay. There were a few hundred, but I only took the time to read fifty or sixty. She was criticized for "shitting out kids" she couldn't afford to support. She was criticized for choosing a degree in writing, instead of something pragmatic. She was criticized for going to the soup kitchen instead of asking her friends for money. There was more, but I'll stop there.

I vote Republican, not because I believe in the trickle down theory, but because I have looked into the eyes of the infertile, and seen the intense pain. I hate abortion because of that. Adopting a baby is something only the wealthy can easily do. That shouldn't be. So many people are dealing with infertility and yet so many babies, who could easily be given a loving home, are killed instead. I know it must take incredible strength of character to carry a baby, and then give it up for adoption. Few people want to deal with the judging that would inevitably come their way. It's easier to abort. Life isn't black and white, I know, but if abortions weren't so easy to obtain, it would become more acceptable to give babies up for adoption. I don't begrudge anyone who finds themselves with an unplanned pregnancy. I just think we need to get to a place as a society, where respecting life is important enough that unwanted pregnancies are handled with compassion, and with adoption.

In richer times, we gave a monthly sum to a Christian crisis pregnancy center. As a result, we received a monthly report containing statistics on abortion. A good percentage of aborters are repeat aborters, and many are married. Teens and/or the poor don't make up a very big percentage of the abortion pie. Knowing the true abortion picture, I can't in good conscience vote for a pro-choice candidate. There is a better way, a more compassionate way, for all involved.

But when I read the obviously Republican comments directed toward someone such as Heather, I can barely stomach it, for a myriad of reasons. Firstly, what kind of world would we live in if nobody took the risk of pursuing the arts, simply because it might lead to a rough life? There are many professions, besides the arts, that are "risky" economically. Teachers and social workers come to mind, firstly. Many teacher families are falling through the cracks, and find themselves on at least WIC, if nothing else. Now that the economy is this depressed, should we criticize every current college student who plans to become a teacher, AND, God forbid, a parent?

I have a high school "friend" whose husband made a very good wage as an executive for Jack-in- the-Box. He retired at 35 years old. They are so frugal that they had enough money socked away by then, to allow for never working again, if he so desired. Kathy, my friend, wore her husband's clothes during both her pregnancies, because maternity clothes were, in their opinion, a stupid waste of money. They never went out to dinner, except to Jack-in-the Box, with company coupons. Even anniversaries were not enough of a reason to "splurge". They never bought anything new, if they could help it. I applaud them, of course, for their self-denial. But my problem is that one can't even see them for a few minutes before they start criticizing everybody and anybody for their "irresponsible" choices. They remind me of some of the commenters in Heather's piece. No compassion. No ability to put themselves in the shoes of another. Everything is broken down into practical or impractical. Impractical is tantamount to evil. Mind you, they don't have any philanthropic pursuits, even though they have lots of time on their hands, and lots of money.

We are part of the working poor, mostly by choice. We are having a fourth child, which I suppose we technically can't afford. But then, we don't believe that children need all that most Americans give them. Extra classes, abundant sports opportunities, new clothes, newer cars, a large house, etc. are not necessary to raise good kids. And no, we don't plan to run right into the doctor's office to get sterilized. We do plan to use our newly acquired knowledge about how long sperm can actually live (A LONG TIME!), to avoid another pregnancy. If God needs us to have another, for some reason, he can easily work around our efforts. He's done it twice. And I thank him for it.

God willing, we won't need the government's help to feed our brood. If that ends up happening, I believe it will be because God needs us to experience that, for a season. Asking for help is extremely humbling, and if he thinks we need a lesson in humility, he might do it that way. I don't know. I don't think there is anything wrong in utilizing the system to make sure little tummies have proper nutrition. I don't agree that everybody should be required to make only pragmatic decisions, in regards to career choices, number of children, etc. Not everyone is going to be good at business, at nursing, at computers, or at the other professions that are considered a "sure thing". Everyone has unique gifts. Some gifts lead to plenty, or to wealth, and some do not. When John McCain said that he wants everyone to be rich, I couldn't relate. I don't want to be rich. I want to be Christ-like. Generally speaking, riches don't tend to lead to Christlikeness. Hardship and learning to self-deny and extend compassion are the more sure roads to Christlikeness, even though no one can ever truly be like Christ.

We didn't start out this single-income venture knowing how to self-deny. We both were sadly lacking in money-handling wisdom. I'm finding that it's a very valuable, and yet way under-taught, under-valued skill. We made some stupid mistakes in going from a $74,000 combined income, to a $52,000 combined income, and now to a less than $30,000 annual income. We CAN make it, because we have a modest house and old cars. But, off and on during these transitions, we've gotten into some debt because of our lack of wisdom, and our inability to distinguish wants from needs. It has been painful at times, due to our having to learn the hard way. I know God is allowing these rough times to teach us how to handle money the way the Bible directs. He can use us in ministry to a much greater extent if we master these principles.
I want to learn them quickly, so that we can pass them on to our children. I want God to be able to use the children in ministry, without first having to do a lot of pruning. Don and I are definitely being pruned, and though I'm grateful for it, it would have been nice to have learned these things in my youth.

This post doesn't have any direction or clear thoughts. Sorry about that. It's just my attempt to process the insensitivity that was hurled at Heather, and that would probably be hurled at me, were I to put our situation out there like she did. I answer to God, not to the world. Thank goodness. The world is very harsh and unforgiving.


Anonymous said...

I am confused then on why you would vote and put our country in the hands of someone you don't believe in.

momma's heart said...

I will vote for John McCain because he believes life begins at conception, and he will appoint judges who also believe that. Our country has many problems of the heart, with abortion being the most cruel among them. Not taking good care of the poor and/or disadvantaged is another problem of the heart, but I think it should fall on churches and citizens more than it does. If everybody gave at least ten percent of their income to help with poverty, we would have far, far less of it.