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Yuletide Guilt, Benevolence Not Enough
"Business . . . Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business. Charity, mercy, forbearance and benevolence were all my business."
The Ghost of Marley spoke these words to Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol which is surely one of the best expressions of the true meaning of Christmas. Marley repents the avaricious life that he had led.
Charles Dickens saw the vast divide between employer and worker and the haves and have-nots. Poverty can strike unexpectedly as it did when my father suddenly lost his sight Mother went to work at the greenhouse, standing her feet all day and earning $30 a week--less than half of what Daddy had made there. She supplemented her meager income by baby sitting. She was one of the working poor, but like the characters in Little Women, she helped those even poorer than she.
America is so rich! That’s why people risk everything to get here. However, it’s all too easy ignore the huge gulf between the haves and the have-nots and sweep the plight of the poor under the carpet just as in Dickens’ day. I’m a staunch believer in the work ethic and the capitalism that have brought us such plenty, but we who have so much should do more to address problems of the working poor. Here’s a modern day Christmas Carol about a hard-working 21st Century Bob Cratchit who asked me to write this story in hopes that you will donate to charities that provide gifts for the children of the poor.
She married young, became a single mother and had to take jobs that didn’t require a college degree. She worked for $6.50 an hour for a big chain and eked out a living with Medicaid, Food Stamps and help from her parents. Christmas is a hard time for the poor. She wrote that her children’s Christmas would have been slim had it not been for gifts from the "Santa’s Helpers" of a local organization.
She didn’t work a full forty-hour week because she hoped to better herself by attending Ivy Tech. During that time she discovered that her calling was to help abused women. She now works at a group home, taking care of three profoundly retarded men at night. She gets them up to go to the bathroom, cleans them up when they soil themselves and gives them showers in the morning. Only 5 foot 4, she injured her back while trying to deal with one of them when he became violent and was hurting himself.
For this she receives the magnificent sum of $8.50 an hour. One of her sons, a scholarship student at an expensive college, said, "The kids here are from wealthy families. They have no concept of what it’s like to be poor. I told them, ‘My mother makes a third of what it costs to go to school here.’"
Since her children left home, she receives no Medicaid or Food Stamps. Her health insurance hasn’t kicked in--even if she could afford it. Without warning, she became ill, and the bill was $4,000! One test at a lab was to cost $400. If she paid for it immediately, it cost only $45. Go figure that one out.
Would you want her job? I certainly wouldn’t! She is only one of the millions of America’s working poor who do our dirty work, take care of our mentally ill, tend our children, work as laborers, and clean our hotel rooms. These necessary jobs cannot be outsourced to other countries, yet these hard-working people aren’t paid a decent living wage. Our politicians need to quit squabbling and join with business and economic leaders to find a solution.
My reader is very busy: She works full time, attends college full time and volunteers at an alcohol recovery house.. Also, she’s trying to achieve her dream of starting a transitional house for battered women and their children, has become incorporated, lined up a Board of Directors, and is working on getting funding. I am very well acquainted with this idealistic woman who is tending to the business of mankind. You see, she is my daughter. I am very proud of her.
We have so much. I shall spend less on gifts for those who do not need and contribute to the United Christmas Fund to make some innocent child’s Christmas better. However, a yearly fit of guilt and benevolence where we put a few coins in the Salvation Army bucket or give to a charity isn’t enough.
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