Heartbroken, Frustrated, Grateful: a tangled ball of emotions for one situation.
I went on a home visit with my husband recently. There we met Carter*. His apartment was empty, except for some clothes on the floor for his bed, a box of berries and two bottles of water. He offered the water to my husband and me.
Heartbroken: This young man, a father in his early 30s, has cancer.
Frustrated: His treatment has left him unable to work. He used his savings as long as the money lasted, then sold his belongings and moved in with a friend until he couldn’t stay any longer. For five months now, his disability claim has been “backlogged.” He has no income.
Grateful: When he was homeless, he was able to qualify for an apartment. He moved into his new home about three weeks ago.
The end of COVID-19 pandemic programs, combined with rising prices, make it harder for people like Carter to afford basic life necessities. Of the 100 largest cities in the USA, Madison has the fastest rising rent (14.1% in the past year and 30.4% since March 2020**). To survive, more and more people turn to programs like our food pantry for help.
In Dane County, a quarter of renters spend more than 50% of their income on housing. Those on the margins, those we serve, spend even more. A new book, Poverty, by America, by Matthew Desmond, describes public policy decisions that cause entrenched poverty in our country. Poverty in America is higher and deeper than any other developed country in the world. While I don’t agree with all that Desmond proposes, surely, we can do better.
You are already doing better for those in need in our community. Your generosity gives food, clothing, beds, furniture, household goods and medicine to neighbors like Carter and his kids. You are helping thousands of neighbors with your faithful support. In addition to these material items, you give Carter hope.
Heartbroken, I pray for Carter. In my frustration, I advocate on his behalf. In my gratitude, I say, thank you, for helping our neighbors in need.
CEO & Executive Director
* Name changed to protect privacy
Lent is upon us. For Catholics and many other Christian denominations, Lent is a time for self-examination. Am I living up to the purpose to which I have been called. Are you? Whatever our faith beliefs, most of us want to believe we are on this earth for a purpose. And most of us want to make the world a better place for ourselves and others. Through your generosity, you have shown that is the world you want.
In the Christian tradition, Lent is a time to use the spiritual practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving to grow in holiness. These practices, followed intentionally, should also grow our capacity to love one another. Lately, I’ve been reflecting on fasting.
Isaiah 6-8 tells us:
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.”
It occurs to me that fasting is largely the privilege of those with means. You can’t fast from what you don’t have. I’m reminded of a prayer that my mother-in-law taught our children when they were very young.
Thank you Lord for enough and some to share.
The concept of “enough” seems contradictory to our culture. Rather, accumulation and materialism reign supreme. But if we are to think about justice for our neighbors in need, we must grapple with what is enough. Intentional fasting helps us recall the difference between wants and needs. It softens our hearts towards those who can only choose between need and need without the option to choose a want.
This Lent, whether or not you are a person of faith:
- Will you join me in fasting?
- Will you spend time contemplating the concept of enough?
- Will you share with those in need?
I’d love to hear about your experience with fasting and how – or if – you grew in goodness through it. Please stay in touch.
You remain in my prayers of gratitude,
CEO & Executive Director