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I know better

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By: Amanda Claggett
So tell me, how beautiful are dirty, blistered feet?

Next week First Baptist Dyer (from where? I don’t know) will come with a group of teenagers to give Montgomery Village “Kids’ Club,” which, I expect, will be much like a two-hour VBS. This week we had Salley Baptist from Salley, South Carolina come and help us pass out flyers for next week’s Kids’ Club. Actually, the two teenage girls from Salley were too tired to help (one of them has an injury), so it was just me and the Pastor. Anyway, we passed out flyers for about an hour today. I knew we were going to do that today, and yet… I wore my leather-strap sandals. Brilliance. Well, my sun-burn and accompanying blisters are brilliant, anyhow!

As I was slipping rolled-up flyers into door handles, I started thinking about the smells of Montgomery Village. I smelled many, many different odors on my trek, and I smell many things just working in the Center. I smelled body odors, various body fluids, rotting food, cat litter, dirty cat, stale beer, many (MANY) different smoky smells—some of which I recognized, and some of which I’m glad I don’t recognize. Then there was the smell of burnt house, the smell of dirty children, the smell of leaky air-conditioners… But the one that burned my nose the most, the one that got to my heart and soul, the one that did more than just irritate me was not something you can physically smell—but it’s not hard to recognize. Way too many of those houses, way too many of the people there reek of it. It’s enough to make your honest heart coil in disgust.

It was apathy.

When I thought about it, the thing that bothers me the most about my work here is the incredible amount of apathy. They just don’t care. Yes, there are those who simply cannot move up and out of that sink hole called poverty, but there are so many who simply don’t want to. WHAT? Who wouldn’t want to be affluent… or downright rich? Especially in dear America, the land of the free, the capitalistic country where the “American dream” says that anyone can become a someone—who wouldn’t want to take advantage of that?? Yeah, I don’t understand it either.

I used to think like my liberal professor from Junior Statesmen Summer School. I used to feel guilty about all the Americans who live in utter poverty. I wished that the rich would pay more to help the poor, and that the poor would be given a break. I felt so selfish when I enjoyed the sweet privileges my father worked so hard to pay for. I wished everyone was on the same social/economic status. But then I learned better.

When Jesus said that we’d always have the poor among us, I believe that He wasn’t saying that some people are doomed to poverty; rather, I believe that He was saying that it’s simply the way humanity works. Some people honestly don’t care. I can’t even tell you how many people of come in to the center, complaining about Social Security’s stinginess, only to back up and say that they’d rather deal with Social Security than get a job. These are perfectly able people: they just don’t want to work. The ones who need help, the handicapped, the mentally retarded, they don’t complain. They are usually the ones who are most grateful for what little help they get. My heart aches for these people. My heart also aches for the kids who know no different. Their parents are not raising them with the goal of them growing up and leaving the projects. I wonder how many will stay in the projects all their lives? I know many adults who already have.

Montgomery Village Baptist Center should be helping those dear people. Since all we do is give free food, free clothes, and free services, we should be using those resources to care for those who cannot care for themselves. I can’t feel sorry for those who are just too lazy to work. I know that it is possible to pull out of poverty. Let me tell you a little story as an example.

There once was a family of four girls: a mom and her three daughters. The dad was in jail, and they lived in a two bedroom apartment. The three girls lived in one small room, the mom lived in the other, and they had the smallest imaginable bathroom between them. The only other room in the house was split in two, between a small kitchen and a living area. The mom did her best to save the money she earned from her job, being as thrifty as she knew how. They did without many of the things that even some of the people in Montgomery Village think are necessary—they did what they could with what they had. Shortly after the dad was released, he found an honest job and worked his hardest to provide what he could for his family. After several years of hard work, diligence, and faith, that family today owns a home, has one daughter in college—no scholarships—all four of the girls will soon have orthodontic work, all four have gone and will go out of the country on mission trips, and they somehow afford the gas for their three personal vehicles. It was not easy for the family, but they were able to pull out of the sink hole. Yes, they did receive help from friends, family, and church, but they could not have done it without their hard work and faith in Jehovah Jireh.

With lots of hard work, and a little faith, anyone can fulfill the American Dream. If only we could break through the apathy and show some of these precious people that they don’t have to live in the projects forever.

If only we could retrain their minds, and get them in tune with God. If only we could teach them a good work ethic. If only we could get the apathetic ones to see that they don’t have to depend on the broken Social Security system. If we could break through this apathy, we’d work ourselves out of a job. (And isn’t that the idea behind mission work?)

Some may say that ministering to the poor is hopeless work.

I know better.

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About Abbie Gonzalez

  • Rita

    Hi my name is Rita and I was with First Baptist Church Dyer when They came to Montgomery Village…And what a blessing it was working with those children.

    We are from west tennessee about 100 miles east of Memphis. Our Kids worked hard preparing for this trip as well as working with a local church while we were there, doing back yard Bible Clubs for them.

    We had stories,crafts,puppets shows and then we just talked to them.

    We want to tell Mongomery Village thanks so much for allowing us to come!!!

    Rita Hicks

  • Leslie Bohn

    Ms. Claggett:
    You seem to have an awful lot of contempt for the people you are supposedly trying to help. Might I suggest that charity work requires an empathetic nature. From the evidence of the essay, I’d say your temperament is more suited to the clergy, or hosting a “Judge Judy”-type TV show, or professional hockey, or perhaps politics.

  • while i can readily Applaud the Work being done to help those less fortunate, i find myself in Agreement with the sentiments in comment #2 for the most part…

    and this wearing of a Freudian slip scares the shit out of me – “If only we could retrain their minds, and get them in tune with God.” – for Reasons that should be self evident…

    the Tao of D’oh


  • Dan

    I think Ms. Claggett has a far better understanding, through experience, of what charity work requires than commentors #2, and #3.

    How exactly does one empathize with the slovenly, and the shiftless?