Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Narrowing Vision Of The Rich

Why is it that when some individuals accumulate a large amount of wealth their vision begins to be worldly instead of the immediate vicinity. This was brought to my attention after I noticed the recent actions of Russel Simmons & Oprah Winfrey. I was watching BET and a HIV spot came across the screen and it was Russel Simmons talking about how AIDS is devastating Africa and we need to focus our time, money, and efforts on remedying this problem. I think AIDS & HIV is a large problem, but I can almost guarantee the epidemic has touched the community that he has grown up in. My problem is that ,if I were him, before I focused on the AIDS epidemic in Africa, I'm would make sure it is remedied in my own community. Why don't some of these wealthy individuals start with the community that they were born and/or raised in? I include Oprah because she has just built a school in Africa worth millions. I can bet that the school system that she grew up in isn't the greatest in the country. So why reach your gracious arm around the globe, when the community that birthed you could use a helping hand. I don't get it. I figured that the equation for positive change went like this: Self- Home-Block- Neighborhood- City- State- Country- World. Haven't these people heard the expression, "Before you go cleaning up someone else's house, Check your own backyard". Far be it from me to tell people what to do with their money. I just think it is an odd practice. For all I know they might be doing tons of work in their old communities, and it never gets publicized. That's just my opinion though and who the hell am I?


Big Possum said...

I have had similar conversations with people in my city, where I am actively engaged in relationships with people living in public housing. The question I've posed is, "why are so many of you church folks so willing to fly half way around the world on mission trips but aren't willing to do anything to help people in the proverbial hoods of your own inner city.

The conclusion I have reached is that it is a complicated question, the answer to which starts with relationship challenges and anxieties. See, if I as a white male run down to Haiti for a week I can help out and even have heart-level experiences with people, people who appreciate my being there. If I try to do things to help out in my inner city, I face a couple challenges. One, because of the history of black/white relations in the city, there may be more resentmnet and suspicion that there is appreciation. It is very understandable, but that is the reality of the difference between "mission" work in Haiti/Africa and my own city.

The second observation is this. If I breakthrough the local barriers to have authentic, heart-level experiences of the people I'm serving, what happens next? When I connect with a 4-yr-old girl the same age as my daughter, a girl who melts my heart, how am I supposed to respond to that? My answer was to create opportunities for my daughter, who lives in the suburbs, to play with the girl living in the projects. All well and good but now the little girl's mom had issues and so she is in foster care and she and my daugher don't hook up any more. And so on and so gets thick quick.

The observation here is that when I go to Haiti I can give and get love and then go home without complicating my life or getting my heart broken. I can go to bed without thinking, "they are only five miles away and still experiencing so much suffering and.....dammit.....why can't I just fix it!?!?"

Hope that provides a little perspective relative to your question.

Anonymous said...

Hello all, I want to take this to a deeper level. Big Possum you're awesome! But stop dishing the church folks. We are right there in our community trying to make a difference! "My motto - if I can reach ONE, I did my part".
I'm a church goer and I work hard in my community to make a difference. I would love the challenge of mission work at some point in life.
But, here is the reality of Ron's question. Do the folks in our backyard (community) want to change for the better? Do they really want help or a handout? Generation after Generation we see the same ole thing "proverty minds" gimmie gimmie gimmie and let me keep on playing the gimmie role until I can't get any more.
You see, so many of our public housing folks don't want to change and better themselves. So, its makes the challenge more stressful when you are working so hard to make a difference in your own community.
What happens, most people give up trying and take the mission roads! You are right, Big Possum. You are appreciated and can feel the hearts of others while still being able to sleep at night knowing you made a difference. It's going to take committment, prayer, changing mindsets through teaching and love to help our community. Are you really up for that type of challenge? That's the deeper level!
Well, that's just me and who am I!

Big Possum said...

I was only using the specific church folks who go on mission trips but don't reach out locally as one example. It was not a "dis" toward church folks in general.

I hear what you are saying about whether or not people in various housing situation just want to be given fish or are willing to be taught to fish.

I mentor a 30-something woman with multiple children living in public housing. She is working hard AND involving God in her effort to breakthrough her self-destructive patterns, emotional wounds, etc. in order to get her life back on a more positive track. We pray together and I "see" God at work in many areas of her life. Because of this, I devote my attention to her whereas I have refrained from people who express interest in "support" but are unwilling to explicity, prayerfully involve a Higher Power in their striving.

The key question to the situation, and the solution, is this. How do you provide/create the relationships with the people in which their spiritual lives are nurtured at the same time they are receiving life-skill mentoring? These relationships are not likely to be provided by the welfare system.


Anonymous said...

Big Possum Thank you!
Thanks for the clarity and I would like to commend you as a male standing in the gap.
Don't get me wrong, I certainly don't believe that all are looking for support. God gives us wisdom.

The situation is clear to me. You need both. Life skills and spirituality. You can provide/create both a few ways. Here is one example: I think this would work perfectly. Have you heard of Group Cell meetings? Have a cell meeting in the homes. Religion is going back to ole school days where you set up group study meetings in homes.
This way you are reaching the ones who want to be nurtured further on religion but might not be ready for Church setting. You will reach the true seekers, the ones who want to change habits, mindsets and behavior styles.
I realize this might be hard for you working in the system, but the door can be opened by your clients. Use their homes or neighborhood centers and establish a time for group spirituality.
Please understand, change will only be temporary if they don't have Christ in their life. You have to offer both life skills and spirituality and it has to balance out. Just won't work any other way.
I am one that would be more than willing to set up cell meetings and I have a few others that would be interested too. So, keep that thought in mind. God will always make a way and open doors. This is just me and my beliefs. Well, who am I. Have a good one!

Anonymous said...

Have you ever been to Africa? Maybe if you go to Africa, the sights you see of our ancestors is masked by the poverty they face. If you think AIDS is terrible in your community, then it is a thousand times worse in Africa. So, instead of a number of people you know that has this disease, in Africa you would know thousands. America already has researchers spending the most money they can for new medications. Africa has no medications or the medication that is dated in the states! Good question though, "Who the hell are you?"

Big Possum said...

Group Cell Meetings?

On my bedside table.

I said a hip hop the hippie the hippie
To the hip hip hop hippie ya you dont stop the rock it
To the bang bang boogie say up jumped the boogie
To the rhythm of the boogie, the beat

- Wonder Mike. circa '78

Here's a question. You write.

"change will only be temporary if they don't have Christ in their life"

Now, assume I'm not a "Christian", per se, but several years ago I wrote a letter that went a little somethin' like this....

Dear God,

I give you all that I am and ever will be. I surrender my life to you to be with, live in, work through, and love me as you will.



Next, I went outside and lit the note on fire, offering its contents up to the Heavens and offering my life as a "living sacrifice".

Not too long after that, "stuff" started happening.

"Hold onto your hat Dorothy.....we're not in Kansas anymore."

"Welcome to the yellow-brick road."

That kind of stuff.

Everywhere you look, there are signs of God's involvement in my life and God-inspired transformation.

Ohhh, but I favor the Bhagavad Gita to the Bible at the moment, am also learning a lot from Bahaullahs teachings, and have found great success with Buddhist meditatative practices.

Other things of interest:

- Haven't been to a formal church in over a decade.

- Once a week I gather with a small group that has agreed on the following prayer as an "opener" to our fellowship....

"Gracious God, thank you for creating this time and space for us to gather in your presence and the company of each other. We invite you to participate in, among, and through us as you will to provide us with an experience that will best support our intentions to be of service to our city, the world, and to all that you desire for your Creation. We love you. Amen."

This is not actually me, though it ain't far away, so don't worry about hurting my feelings. Now for the question.

Do I have "Christ" in my life?

"Fab Five Freddie told me everybody's high. DJ's spinnin' are savin' my mind. Flash is fast, Flash is cool. Francois sez fas, Flashe' no do."

- Blondie, circa '70 sumthin sumthin the bat cave Robin.


Anonymous said...

If this isn't you, then it is for who ever the shoe may fit.....
Possum, Possum, Possum! Your crazy! Just Slow our roll. Don't be so angry. I'm on your side. Know this - I never said, life would be easy once you put Christ in your life. I didn't promise you a bed of roses, either.
Understand - surrendering and givng your all to God is the 1st step. Believe me, its not easy but it is less pressure, less stress, less worry and suddenly you will find all the trials you are facing becomes easier to deal. They won't go away and more may be dumped on you but it is easier to deal.
I could give you a testimony that would literally blow you away. Im sure you have one too. But, im not giving up. I'm not playing the blaming game because through it all, I learned to lean and depend on Christ. My trials have shaped and molded me into the person I am today and I stand saying, I am a precious beautiful woman of God. Now, lets focus on some of your comments:
#1 - Group cell meetings, thats great it is by your bedside. I don't know if you are or have yet to but, Why don't you start the cell meeting (bible study). Not give someone a number or a book reference. I might be out of bounds cause this might be what you are doing but again, You form a bible study and get others interested!
#2 - Assuming you are not a christian and my comment "change is only temporary without Christ". 1st I would say, these are challenging times for us all. We all have a self image we carry around inside us and for some it leads to destructive behavior. God never intended for us to feel bad about ourselves. Jeremiah 1:5 tells us; Before I formed you in the womb, I knew and approved of you as my chosen. Understand no one is perfect and accepting Christ means we are saved by grace through faith cause Ephesians 2:8,9 tells me that Salvation is a gift and can not be earned. So, no matter what good deed you try; you have to accept Christ in your heart. 2nd: I would say, As you go through all your programs don't leave God out of the loop. He wants you to draw closer, he already said he knows your name. All you have to do is put God in the loop by just trusting him to help you in the difficult areas of life and stop relying on your own abilities. I would say more, but space prohibits. Moving on Possum,
#3Haven't been to church in a decade: I think this topic "Ron" bought out is an eye opener for us both. Maybe it is time to work out your unforgiveness and your bitterness of whatever stop you from going to church. It's time to work it out within yourself. I think you know why, but ask God to help you in the areas of forgiving and bitterness. I believe if you could/would form the bible study meetings it would be a a great start to get you back into fellowship with believers and eventually get back into Church settings.
#4Do you have Christ in your life? You know of the Lord. He knows you and he is calling you closer right now. Christ is speaking through people, tv, songs, nature, books even rocks. But, question is are we listening? Are we hearing the voice of the Lord say, come unto me all that is heavy burden and I will give you rest? Do we listen to that still small voice?
Don't get so caught up on religion. Free up your mind and begin to focus on Christ and his presenence, you know him. You already said, there are signs of his involvement in your life. Stop focusing on "Religion". This is where so many people get caught up and turned off. I will leave that alone for another discussion.
The only one that can answer the question, do you have Christ in your life is you? So, I'm asking you; Do you? Again, who am I.

Big Possum said...


I realize that without the benefit of tone, countenance, and body language it can be hard to "hear" through written words. Having said this, I don't know where you get the idea that I AM "angry". I rather view my style as one of sharing perspective on serious matters in a playful manner. To answer your question, I AM very confident that Christ my life. My question was intended to stimulate reflection here about whether or not one need be a "Christian", in name, in order to know Christ.

Along such lines, I have found the following work to be quite compelling in many ways.....

When you say, "Change will only be temporary unless they have Christ" I agree with you. The danger in that statement, however, is that some may interpret it to be exclusive to the "religion" of Christianity. Many people are having profound experiences of committed relationship with the living God but may not identify the "presence" as Christ.

"You may be right
I may be crazy
but it just may be a lunatic you're looking for"

- Billy Joel

Havin' fun!

Warm Regards,


Anonymous said...

blah blah blah

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