Saturday, November 5, 2011

Recognizing the Needs of the Poor and Sharing More Readily with Them

My New Year's Resolution this month is to "recognize the needs of the poor more and share more readily with them."  It is taken from Alma 5:55, which says:

Yea, and will you persist in turning your backs upon the poor, and the needy, and in withholding your substance from them?  

Honestly, in theory, this should be an easy resolution for me.  I grew up poor, the second of eight children with a school custodian father and a mom who didn't work outside our home - and rarely inside it.  (That's not an insult of any kind or "bad" in any way.  For more detail about my parents' situation, see this post.)  As a teenager, I paid for most of what I wanted - and my father opened the checkbook for us to see the inadequate balance whenever we asked for something we simply couldn't afford.

Most of our married life, my wife and I have been relatively poor.  I walked away from significant opportunities when I graduated from college to teach high school - a decision that flabbergasted my college friends.  I have been unemployed more than once, due to multiple changes in career paths.  We had a few years of plenty, when I had a career sales year, but a bad investment ended that period of prosperity.  I now work in an industry I absolutely love, and it provides a wonderful tuition benefit for our children in college - but I have had to start over at the bottom of the totem pole, so to speak, and, therefore, once again, we are relatively poor.

My wife's upbringing was not quite as strapped as mine, but it certainly wasn't anything above moderate-middle class.  

Given our lives, it should be a simple thing for me to recognize the needs of the poor and share more readily with them.  After all, being relatively poor makes it much easier to recognize the needs of the poor - since they are, to some extent, our own needs.  However, being relatively poor also makes it hard sometimes to let go of what we do have and become relatively poorer as as result.

I believe neither the absolute nor relative poverty of one's situation contributes automatically or predominantly to one group sharing with others in a "personally significant" way, since I believe the rich who share often don't share to the extent that the poor do (meaning that when the rich share, it usually is not as much of a sacrifice as that of the poor), but I also believe the poor sometimes justify their lack of sharing more quickly than the rich.  I think there are impediments to sharing freely and meaningfully for each group, and, most importantly for this post, I think the focus (almost obsession) with finances in our modern society leads us to over-emphasize monetary sharing and de-value non-financial sharing.

So, my initial resolution this month is to recognize the non-monetary needs of the poor (including the non-monetarily poor) and share more readily what I have that will alleviate their poverty.

The possibilities are endless, and, therefore, the need for discernment and inspiration is paramount.

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