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Abandonment in the Midst of Abundance: Protecting Poor and Hungry People

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"Abandonment in the midst of abundance." This is the provocative phrase that is still ringing in my ears after a circle of protection event last week in East Harlem, New York. This is how Willie Baptist, a formerly homeless scholar-in-residence from the Poverty Initiative assessed our current socioeconomic situation as he was reflecting on his history of educating and organizing people – many of them homeless.

During a recession, when it seems headlines threaten economic collapse or ruin, the consistent theme we hear is “not enough.” As a result, we lose sight of the abundance present among us -- the reality of abundance in the United States. Sometimes, I find that I have bought into this fear as well. Nonprofit jobs are even less stable than they once were. My husband is a student. Perhaps I, too, should snap up my wallet and cease my giving in fear of what tomorrow may bring.

But here is why I am more connected to some of the budget rhetoric than I might like to admit: When I think about my family’s budget, I find it is easier to imagine maintaining my current lifestyle and cutting back on the donations we make than it is for me to say, “In my moral budget the first thing to go is the extras -- the extravagances that I enjoy because of the abundance I experience.”

And yet, that is exactly what I expect from the government. Personal and federal budgets are not one and the same, certainly, but as a Christian, I feel my call to the government for a circle of protection around poor and hungry people reverberating in my spirit. It is the same anxiety and questioning that comes to me when I read about the early Christian community: “They would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:45). When reading this, I ask myself, how do I interpret this for my life?

I will continue to call on my members of Congress to protect the essential programs that mean families are able to put food on the table, or move out of poverty, or get quality child care. To provide a social safety net is part of our nation’s moral fabric, and to call for justice within that government is part of my privilege and Christian calling. But I will also discern for myself what this call looks like for me as a person of faith in a time of such great need.

On my walk back to the Bread office from East Harlem, I see both the abundance of multi-million dollar homes, as well as the abandonment of the man on the street, unsuccessfully seeking formula for his baby daughter. In this space I try to imagine what the kingdom of God on earth can look like, and how each part of my life can be about that promise.

Sarah-rohrerSarah Rohrer is a regional organizer for Bread for the World.

 


 

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