Monday, November 7, 2011

My Very Cheap 2 Cents

I'm going to stick my nose where it doesn't belong and give my two cents about this whole economic issue broiling in the ever-increasing utopian society we have here.  I know, it isn't polite to talk about politics, but I have never been known to choose politeness over a darn good opinion.  And just to warn you, in most ways I don't know what the heck I'm talking about when it comes to various economic theories.  I'm as dumb as rock when people start shouting out about the deficit, inflation, and windfall gains (what? no idea what that is, but it sounds like somebody's gettin' a whole lotta money in a windfall gain- ok, just looked that up and I was right on the money $$$- it means you won the lottery, pretty much.) Ok, so forget what I just said-maybe I DO know a lot about this.  Read on for more scarily accurate takes on our fiscal fiasco.

The frustrating part about this whole situation is that I don't agree with anybody.  At least nobody that seems to make it on the CNN ticker or nightly news websites.  The Republican vs. Democratic debates seem to be so stuck on their own talking points that nothing novel is said and people like me start to tune out.  So in my frustration, I tried to come up with a title for what I believe would be the economic basis for the Utopian Society of one Molly M. Howat.  What great, catchy tagline did I arrive at?  Capitalism with a conscience.  The terrible part is that this little phrase is anything but unique.  I typed it in google and got a gagillion articles.  Damn. Not all of the articles expressed the same idea I was entertaining in my head, but they used my cute little title just the same.
Ah well, so what do I mean by capitalism with a conscience?  That I think capitalism would work if people were virtuous enough not to get caught in the materialism trap.  That, ideally, people would be so invested in social change themselves that they don't need a stinking government to tell them where to put their millions.  They could derive immense pleasure from the beating the government to the punch, so to speak.  No, I don't really believe in long-term welfare but I do know that people who are born with a thousand strikes against them need a hand up from time to time.  Or need several hands up.

I remember one time my father encountering a homeless man outside the grocery store after Mass one Sunday.  I remember the man's red, alcohol-ridden face and the dirt and grime that seemed to cover every one of his aching pores.  Dawdling behind my father for a bit, I was a bit scared of the man to tell you the truth.  So unpredictable, these homeless people, I thought in my 10-yr. old head.  I wished my father would just quickly pass him by.  But typically, dad handed out a $20 to the man and wished him the best.  We hurried on our way, joining the rest of the family in our car.  I remember one of us bringing up the question of whether or not Dad should have given money to the man, given that he would probably just buy more liquor with it.  And I remember the gist of my father's response.  Whether or not the man purchased $20 worth of alcohol was on the poor man's soul, but whether or not my father responded to a man in need, was on my father's soul.  Yes, people could shout and disagree and whine that we probably should have walked back in the grocery and bought $20 bucks worth of apples or tofu or whatever, and you can disagree, but I think the point is a profound one.  How you respond to others in need is really the only thing you need to worry about if you want to talk eternal turkey.  How others use your gifts of money, time or talent is their issue.  Sure, if you have a ham sandwich, give a ham sandwich.  But if your family is waiting on you in the car and the choice is whether to give nothing or a $20, give the $20.  Your test is over.  Your Jesus has passed by.

Lastly, of course, I have to mention that great story in Scripture.  That Lazarus and the Rich Man story that I mentioned in the last post.  A priest once said the Rich Man went to hell not because he went outside and beat Lazarus every chance he got, or spit on him as he took his daily stroll to the ancient mailbox.  Nah, the Rich Man went to hell because he didn't even notice Lazarus was there.  Aghhh......I remember crying internal tears at that point.  Because when truth convicts, it often convicts with the power of being hit by a mac truck.  The danger is not in accumulating some random evil number of Valentino purses.  The danger lies in entering that every-tempting, insular bubble of social ignorance whereby we fail to hear the cries of those who live very near.
Don't be fooled.  It's so easy to do.  I do it daily.  My world shows its pitifulness in my complaining, because I haven't allowed myself to cross paths with those who are truly suffering.  I lament about some ridiculous triviality because I haven't walked the hallways of the stench-filled nursing homes in a tad too long.  I get irritated with a lack of "me time" because I've forgotten the faces of the mentally-ill I touched in a downtown shelter.  I whine about the fake leather starting to peel off of one of my high heel shoes because the sores on the feet of the Honduran orphans I held have become too distant a memory.  Let me not kid myself.  Just like the millionaires, my heart needs to be in the right place if this society will ever change.  If I can't see Lazarus, then how will I show others where he lives?


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