Friday, September 09, 2005

What is important?

It is almost impossible to know whether or not someone is rich or poor or in between by observing what they do for a living, where they live, or what they own. Credit cards and lines of credit make many people appear to be much more prosperous than they actually are. Owners of large savings and investments sometimes appear to be of modest means disguising their actual net worth. Some people live beyond their means, some people live within their means, and some people live below their means.

I am unable to determine anything important about a person based on their appearance. I do make some judgments about people based on how neat they appear, but neatness is more of a personal preference of mine than it is an attribute of real importance. I don’t care about the real net worth of other people because the real net worth of a person also tells me nothing important about that person.

People have a right in this country to be poor as well as rich. Everyone has a right to decide how much stuff they want and what they are willing to do to get what they want. There is no shame, and there should be no shame, in not wanting as much as others want or not being willing to do what others do to acquire stuff.

The people who should feel shame are the people who treat the poor different than they treat others. Almost nothing makes me madder than to hear someone referred to as a burger flipper or to hear a customer in a restaurant fuss at one of the workers. Every person who does a job well, regardless of the job, as long as it is a legal job, deserves respect. Those who look down on the poor, those who mistreat the poor, and those who advocate for the poor, are all equally contemptible because all of these groups consider the poor to be lesser than they are.

It is important for a person to get up and go to work five days a week, it is important for a person to keep his or her word, it is important for a person to be honest, it is important for a person to take care of his or her family, and it is important for a person to be kind.

I wonder how many people in Church this weekend feel the same as me.


Teresa said...

I totally agree that we treat them differently and that there is unconsious discrimination of anyone who is different than us. However, I don't think that most people WANT to be poor, although there are some who are perfectly content that way and we should not try to change the way they think. I think that what you may be saying is that we are assuming that these people WANT to be brought out of their sorry lives into something better--most do, but unfortunately they don't really have a choice now. The problem David: How do you think that we would've treated another community hit with Katrina that is "WELL OFF", maybe somewhere in FLorida? Would we let them fin for themselves because they "have money"?

David M. Smith said...

Hi Teresa,

I never said or even implied that anyone wants to be poor. I have never known anyone who wanted to be poor and I don’t expect to ever meet anyone who wants to be poor. However, I do know many people who choose what they are willing to do in order to acquire money and other stuff. There are many intelligent, honest, hard-working people who choose to not do what it takes to acquire wealth.

My post really was directed at everyone who thinks poverty is synonymous with “sorry lives” as you just characterized the poor. A sorry life or a great life has very little to do with wealth or possessions. I would characterize a sorry life as someone who is unnecessarily dependent on government or someone else for survival.

I think the government responded to Katrina just like the government usually responds. The size of the flood, the huge number of people who depend on government, and an inept mayor all contributed to the disaster. The governor of Louisiana also added to the disaster, but to be fair, she hasn’t been on the job long enough to be held totally responsible. The governor of Florida has experience with this type of disaster and has proven to be very competent.

In the middle of a disaster, everyone needs to be saved regardless of who is at fault. It is the only humane thing to do. However, after the disaster, those who contributed to the problem need to be chastised regardless of their level of income, not labeled as victims and given a pass.