When love isn't popular.

Yesterday I read a blog post that I have not stopped thinking about. I won't link to it here because the part that I have been thinking about has since been deleted by the author. But it was a political post in which the author affirmed her commitment to a presidential candidate and did so in a joking manner. After that, she then made just a few quick comments along the lines of being tired of driving through the South Side of Chicago and seeing people brown bagging and smoking and that she didn't want to have to pay for them anymore. Lots of people responded, some in favor of what she had written, some (myself included) not quite so in favor. The words that were written and the consequent reaction have been in my mind ever since.

My response to this post was of the tone that I live on the South Side of Chicago in one of the poorest, roughest neighborhoods and have known many people that put my work ethic to shame. People working 60 or more hours a week, with only one day off, on their feet in 120 degree temperatures. And I made the offer that, since we both live in the same city, that if she did not know such people that she was welcome to come visit and I would introduce her to a few. I also cautioned against making broad generalizations on the internet.

Others also voiced their opinions about poverty and injustices. And those voices have since been drowned out in the overwhelming support of the author and the tendency of some people to "leave their negativity out there," to generally just go crazy anytime politics is mentioned and to not be able to take a joke.

In blogland, there's this idea that one must always be positive. That everything must be light and funny. When people began responding to this particular blogpost and respectfully disagreed, the blogland community came out in droves, condemning the negativity of those who disagreed.

I have since responded to my original comment with the following:
"The part of the post I was commenting to has been deleted (which I appreciate!). For me, it's not really about the politics. I don't really care much about democrat/republican/whatever. For me, it's about treating people with grace and recognizing that if we have found ourselves among the financially stable, we are lucky. It just as easily could be any one of us out there hoping for government aid, if the circumstances were slightly different. That's all I was trying to say. To treat people with grace because you just don't know what led them to that point in their life and you can never be sure that given the same upbringing and circumstances that you would have done differently."

I believe the ideas I spoke of are the very opposite of negativity. I advocated for grace, understanding, gratitude. That before we make judgments, we take a moment and really get to know people and try to understand.

There is this notion in the U.S. that people who are poor are poor because of their own choices or lack of ambition. Those of us who have money often think that if we ever found ourselves in a similar situation, that we would pull ourselves up by the proverbial bootstraps. We don't consider the traumas that may have occurred, the abuses committed by the very system we attack the poor for abusing,  or the power of someone routinely saying by words or by inequalities in education or by lack of access to proper education, "No. You will never be anything."

We love to think that given the same circumstances, somehow our character would shine where others haven't.

That prejudice, that condemnation. That thinking of "that would never be me. I would do x, y and z if that were me." That is negativity. Negativity does not reside in advocating for the poor, for grace nor for understanding.

This, for me, was never about politics. It's not about who you vote for and who I vote for. It's about treating people with dignity and with grace. It's about understanding that, statistically speaking, given the very same set of circumstances in life, the strong majority of us would make those very same decisions that we judge and condemn.

And it's about being thankful. Grateful that I've never been in a position where I've had to make those choices. Grateful for my exceptional education and for the opportunities afforded me by my life circumstances. And incredibly indebted to my parents for instilling in me that I am no better than anyone else.

When I considered writing this post, I wondered what the inevitable fallout would be for going against the grain and whether it was worth writing. The conclusion I came to is this: My blog is and will always be about love. And sometimes love isn't popular.

Love "rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (Corinthians 13:6,7).

Happy Wednesday, friends.

19 comments:

  1. After reading that post yesterday I finally realized just how much people don't get it. You're right this isn't democrat or republican it's about humanity and respect. There's a constant "I'm better than you so you should get less than me" attitude. Quite frankly I'm appalled at the way people treat each other. I may not always agree with someone but I respect their opinions not matter how flawed they are.

    Sometimes I think that I'm the only one that genuinely cares about the people less fortunate slaving away to make ends meet. I've also learned not to judge a book by it's cover working in politics. So when people make broad generalizations when talking about poverty & those on welfare they're usually wrong. Poverty doesn't discriminate. Black, White,Orange or purple are all affected.

    Sorry I blabbed on and on about this. It just kills me to see people hating people because of their circumstances. After all Jesus preached to love one another not tear them down.

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  2. Emily this is an amazing post. I am so glad you did publish in the end.
    Love it to pieces.

    xx

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  3. I didn't see the post you are referring to but this rich versus poor debate breaks my heart.why should we look down on people who have less. Having been raised by two hardworking parents in the middle class I am offended when people suggest that those with less are lazy. That's an ignorant generalization and should be stopped. I look at countries like India where the divide between rich and poor is so great nd I read how the so called less fortunate suffer and it upsets me. There is enough to share but greed runs rampant in this world. Your blog post is wonderful and I'm glad you are standing up for what's right

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  4. This is an amazing post.

    I've lived in a few different towns and I also want to invite people to come see my home town when they start to sling insults and criticism toward those in need. Here, we have the "haves" and the "have nots". There is no in between. We have no industry (factories, warehouses, etc.) because we're a town that basically exists for the military base that sits in the middle. This means that you can either work on the base or work in the restaurants and department stores that the base workers use and let me tell you....that doesn't cut it financially. I have been the person working those ridiculous hours and trying to afford basic living and I thank my lucky stars every. single. day. that I have loving, understanding and generous parents that kept me from turning to the government for help because there were times where I can promise you that if I was on my own, that would have been my only option. And not because I was lazy or stupid or incapable...because sh*t happens and sometimes things don't work out the way you planned.

    Unfortunately, there are injustices on BOTH sides of the poverty/wealth fence and it's disgusting to me that simply having more resources at your disposal somehow means that it's up to you to decide whether or not a human being deserves help from their fellow man, especially when the majority of us are(hopefully) ignorant to the suffering that these people have endured. Generalizing any group of people is robbing each of them of their individual stories and robbing them of the price that some have paid before finally asking for assistance.

    I'm glad that you stood up for yourself and defended your right to have an opinion, no matter what the opinion is.


    P.S longest comment ever? Possibly.... :/

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  5. Em, thank you for writing this. You better believe there will be a link to it on my blog today. I hope some of those people who we engaged in debate with yesterday will see this, although I doubt they will unfortunately.

    I couldn't stop thinking about the post yesterday either, but I didn't feel I could articulate my feelings the way you did today. Instead, I wrote about how passion is often times mistaken as being "unfriendly" or mean. Passion is often intimidating.

    We are lucky we have the freedom to be passionate about these issues. And we can use that freedom and privilege to fight for those people who don't have the freedom.

    And yes, there are people here in the United States of America who do not have this freeom.

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  6. Thank you for posting this Emily! I could not agree more. There are seriously people who work their whole life just to barely make it.

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  7. I agree there are people out there that work endless hours and still have a hard time getting ahead. I believe those people are not who the Blogger yesterday was referring to... Just my 2 cents....

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    1. Even if we are referring to someone who is perpetually jobless and drinks the entire day away every single day, would that make it okay to judge them without knowing what brought them to that point? Say for instance, that person had been sexually abused day after day throughout their childhood and drinking was the way they coped with the reality and aftermath of that abuse, would we be justified in condemning them? Or would we, upon knowing the truth of the life they had had the misfortune to have lived, be grateful for our own lot in life and be willing to lend an ear to help shoulder some of that pain?

      How we see a person on any particular day, or even across the span of a few years, does not encompass all of who they are or who they will forever be.

      Love always hopes.

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    2. You have a good point however at what point should someone stop blaming circumstances in their lives and take personal responsibility? There are multitudes of people with horrid, unimaginable childhoods and circumstances that they overcame and still managed to not be "jobless and drinks the entire day away every single day". Again, personal responsibility.

      That said, I practice compassion and love. No one should be treated badly, regardless of their choices in life. I give food to the poor, give to charities, donate my time....etc. What I DO have a problem with, however, is making excuses for people and condoning bad behavior. I believe in helping people become contributing members of society, not telling them it's OK to live off the government their entire lives. These people need help, not endless handouts...

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    3. I'm so glad you stopped by again! I was hoping you would read and comment! I think we're saying a lot of the same things and I have written a follow-up post to this, which you can find at: http://www.ohhellolove.com/2012/09/when-love-isnt-popular-continued.html

      I am advocating for treating people with grace and dignity and for making attempts at understanding. And then from there, to be part of the solution, which it sounds like you are! I think the problem lies in saying "I'm tired of paying for them. Let's cut them off" without looking at how they got to that point and what parts of our society and systems might have contributed to where they are today. There are so many systemic injustices which contribute to poverty in our society and we must be willing to acknowledge the injustices and to work to right those wrongs. I think it's a combination of personal and societal responsibility.

      But yes, I do agree. Endless handouts is not the answer. I think the answer starts with grace and continues on to righting some inequalities and, in doing so, securing a more just future.

      I do hope you'll read my continuation of this discussion and post a response there, too. I really think we're saying a lot of the same things!

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    4. I think we are completely on the same page!(even though we probably have different political stances, but who cares?!)

      I agree that a blanket statement of "All people on Gov't aid are deadbeats" is not helping. There are so many struggling today with the downturn of the economy. Even people that never dreamed they would take a handout have had to resort to that.

      I think the key is getting the ones that WANT to work and WANT to make a better life for themself the tools they need to make it happen. As for the others that are living on welfare and food stamps, etc for years and years and don't lift a finger to contribute, I wish there was something more that would be done. Not to get political but I don't see the current administration making strides to solve this issue. Instead I see more assistance going out to those who are habitual "Takers".

      Alas, I did not mean to get on a soap box but it really is frustrating to see, I see a lot of it in my city. I also see a lot of young people with great potential and drive who just need the right role model to step in.

      For that, I am glad there are people like you out there!

      I surely will be back and am following you. :-) Have a great weekend!

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  8. I actually read through the comments on the post you're referring to, because someone mentioned it their reaction to it. So well written. Thank you!

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  9. I applaud all of your idealism and desire to live the words we all say we live by, but that so many of us don't.

    To be sure I have seen the hard working poor you're talking about. The Great State of Maine in which I live has many hard working poor. It also has a large number of folks who know nothing of hard work but rather dependence on the State for their existence. There are now generations of people who live this way.

    Here's my take on this.

    Here in Maine we have always had a manufacturing economy. First it was the woolen mills, then the shoe shops, the paper mills and wood products. The hours were long and very hard and the owners paid wages sufficient to keep the employees alive but not so alive so they could move on up to the East Side. The only exception was the paper mills where the workers organized and they made a decent wage but the need for paper, and cheap imports have killed this industry.

    That said, there never was and still isn't, a sense that education is worthwhile. "Working in the mill was good enough for the old man, it's good enough for me."

    The woolen mills are gone. The shoe shops are gone. The wood product plants are mostly gone as are the paper mills. Where does that leave us? With folks with little education and no jobs.

    But here's the rub. Human nature (for the most part) like electricity, seeks the path of least resistance. Think about your own life. How often do you try taking a short cut when you know full well that you really need to expend the effort to do it right?

    Perhaps this sound silly to you but if you have no education, and no propect for work, and the State is giving away money, what would you do? After you get on the dole, what incentive is there to get off?

    Here's another thought for you. Well tempered greed can be good. The desire to get ahead, to become more than you are, to aspire, is also human nature.

    I want to play with my ham radio toys so I bust my butt working hard to make the money to buy the toys. I provide a good service to my clients who pay me well for my efforts. To do this I have had to become smarter than I was (let that one go Em), and I have had to take risks.

    It is also true that I have known economic hardship. These last few years have been hard with little work but because I took a calculated business risk, I ensured our economic future and I'm still standing.

    Can everyone do all that's necessary to get ahead? Probably not. We're all different and we're all damaged. What seems easy to me, may be impossible for others. But to give up, to make others support you for your existence is infuriating.

    And what makes folks like me all the more upset are the folks who have come from nothing and made it. They valued an education and had a desire to be more. The best part of all, they let nothing stand in their way.

    So here's where I get so confused. We are our brothers' keepers (I'm not known for being PC but I allow for our sisters too). So where do we stop being their keeper and start making them our financially dependent drones?

    When does a hand up turn into a hand out? Merely providing financial support does nothing toward improving the quality of their lives. Maybe it's just me, but the feeling of success from doing a job well is invigorating. We all need to feel like we have some worth. Living for the monthly welfare check doesn't help folks have that feeling.

    The answer? I don't know. But I think it has to be that parents see to it that their children have the desire to learn. With an education you have multiple paths open to you and whatever path interests you, head in that direction. With no education, where can you go? The parents have to be convinced that their path won't work for their kids. That is tough. So Em, I salute you for being a part of the solution. I know it's tough but you keep plugging. And keep living the Word. Ha, look at that! I turned this religious!












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    1. My reply above hit the character limit and I had to edit it to get it to go. I am the king of verbosity.

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    2. Excellent post and well written. I wish there was an answer. I think some people are just content with the handouts unfortunately and do not have that drive in them to do more. Those people need that extra little push, like cutting off their benefits at some point....

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  10. And that, everyone, is my father. A comment I can be proud of and yet another reason why I love my dad so much. As sarcastic as he can be, we always know he's right behind us.

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  11. Wow. Paul has hit the nail on the head. How eloquent, now I know where the girls get their writing skills! Well put & Emily, thanks for writing this. :) we need more people like you in this world!

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  12. Wow. Paul has hit the nail on the head. How eloquent, now I know where the girls get their writing skills! Well put & Emily, thanks for writing this. :) we need more people like you in this world!

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