Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Them that's got shall get, them that's not shall lose
Today is Wednesday. Halleluiah.
I work at one of the largest, wealthiest research hospitals in the United States. As I drive on campus each morning, I can see beautifully-manicured lawns, expensive cars, massive construction on building projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars. I see banners proclaiming US News rankings and advertising the new 4-star restaurant they’ve opened in the hotel across the street from my office. Everything about it speaks of success and money.
What I see in the ten minutes before I reach campus is a different story. The campus is situated in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. Each morning, I see prostitutes in skin tight shorts and wobbly heels, wending their exhausted – or stoned - way home from a night of work in some other part of the city. I see drug deals made with a pat on the back and a hand slipped into a coat pocket. I see teenaged girls dragging weary toddlers to the convenience store – there are no true groceries in these parts of town. I see gangs of young boys in white t-shirts and baggy pants, who should be in school but aren’t. I see street people sleeping off the aftermath of last night’s struggle with personal demons. I see middle-aged men, sitting in doorways, staring at nothing, hoping for nothing. They'll still be there on my way home in the evening.
I also see churches, perhaps a dozen or more in the 20 blocks between the freeway and my parking lot. They proclaim messages from their front signs:
All are welcome here
Tithe if you love Jesus; anyone can honk
CH__CH. What’s missing?
Tent revival August 24-28. Seek your salvation here.
They also proclaim the following:
Free hot meals
Food and Shelter for the Body and Soul
Grocery distribution on Wednesdays
The last sign hangs on the church parking lot across the street from my parking lot. Each Wednesday morning, a truck pulls up from the local food bank and distributes meager bags of groceries to the local residents. The crowd forms early and throngs well into the lunch hour. Even if I couldn’t see the crowd, I would know they were there by the singing. As they patiently wait in line for stale Thomas’ English muffins, surplus granola bars, fruit roll-ups and brown-paper bags of rice, they sing hymns of thanks. Young, old, mothers with babes in arms, homeless men in outfits that are uniformly grey-brown from months of street dust, the strung-out, the insane. They sing thanks and praise under the leadership of the church pastor, as thousands of well-dressed employees hurry from their cars to their offices a mere 90 feet away.
On one side of the street, the haves; on the other, the have nots.
I find myself wondering how our country – how any country – can hope to achieve peace and democracy abroad when it so clearly has not put forth the effort to give its own people equity in society.
How do we set our own house to rights?
Stay tuned, all three of you who read this blog. I have some ideas. And I’d like to hear yours.