- Jack H. Bender
Once a person becomes sensitive to those who struggle under the stress of poverty, that person sees and hears about poverty everywhere, even while living a reasonable life “on the other side of the tracks.” It seems that having poverty on the brain affects eyesight and hearing as well. In less than twenty-four hours I have noticed evidence of poverty from many directions. My day started with my daughter sharing that she had seen her first homeless person sleeping in an alcove on Holland’s 8thStreet, a street hailed for its appeal and upscale, one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants. Cindy and I visited a relative who shared about the work of her church which raised $355,000 to buy a vacant church and turn it into a homeless shelter. Last night’s news featured presidential candidate Julián Castro walking beneath Vegas where homeless people take shelter in huge drains. I will head to Habitat for Humanity’s annual luncheon in an hour…
In the music world, the proliferation of outstanding Jewish violinists is understood to have come out of practicality, especially during the Nazi Germany years. When a Jewish family heard that the Gestapo was coming for them, musicians could not grab their pianos and run, but they could grab their violins and attempt an escape. Another ministry of our relative’s church is a bed ministry. Every child deserves his or her own bed and, based on that belief, the bed ministry has provided 3,500 children’s beds, to date, for those without one. A bed for a child always comes with a pillow and linen as well as a book and stuffed animal. Their earliest experience with this ministry found them learning that a standard crib given to needy families was often abandoned, though regrettably. Many experiencing poverty went from rental property to rental property with only what they could carry.
The ministry’s current practice is to supply families with Pack ‘n Plays for three reasons: 1) they are inexpensive and the ministry has developed a partnership with a distributor who offers the Pack ‘n Play at a reduced cost, 2) child care can be erratic, so the folding P & P can be taken to an emergency care giver, 3) when a family is evicted, due to inability to pay rent, the bed is likely to be taken with them. When the creditors come, a family can grab the Pack ‘n Play and attempt to find other shelter.
It seems like every form of human need is being met by some ministry somewhere, but even inspiring stories often refer to “cracks, cliffs and gaps” in our formal and informal support structures. Families who begin to make progress out of poverty may slide backward when support programs end, or their progress may actually propel them into a crack or gap--or over a cliff—when their increased income disqualifies them for financial support. But, right now, let’s celebrate the people of the bed ministry who push back against poverty with beds, stuffed animals and books and know the future is dependent on the welfare of all children.