Thursday, September 29, 2011

Relying On The Kindness of Strangers

Several of my friends are looking for work. Many more are underemployed.

These are tough financial times, and more than ever we need one another. In the Tennessee Williams play, "A Streetcar Named Desire" a fading but still attractive Blanche Dubois explains how she survives when she says, "I always depended on the kindness of strangers."

My friend "John" was laid off from the job he loved a little over three years ago. He was asked to appear on stage at his church in a presentation of "cardboard testimonies". I think most of us have seen these displays. The choir sings an appropriately emotionally manipulative song such as "Amazing Grace/My Chains Are Gone" and people appear on stage holding a large cardboard sign. On one side is written a confession or need, and on the other side - words of hope.

The pastor of John's mega-church asked him to participate in Cardboard-Sunday just a few weeks after he became unemployed. The words, "I just lost my job" were written on one side, and "Trusting God" on the other. He, along with more than twenty transparent and hopeful parishioners used simple words to share their heart with a congregation of more than 5,000 that day.

Two weeks later John had lunch with his friend Mark. Mark had to know, "So, did you get a lot of job offers after Cardboard-Sunday?" "You know," John replied, "not even one."

I was surprised by that fact. Five thousand people–brothers and sister in the faith–and not one single person could offer a job lead? Literally hundreds of the city's leaders, business owners, and movers and shakers claim this particular church as their own. I know many of them were sitting in the pews that day.

There was a time when the church rallied to help their own in times of need. Then the government began offering welfare and food stamps to help the poor and indigent. The Church threw up their hands and seemed to say, "Whew! Helping the needy is no longer our job."

Blanche Dubois relied on the kindness of strangers. I wonder if The Church had failed her.

It's been three years since John poured his heart out onto a large chunk of cardboard. His family still struggles as John continues to look for work. Life is further complicated by health problems, broken cars, and leaky house pipes they can't afford to repair.

I believe that if a need has made its way into my circle of knowledge and influence, then I'm supposed to respond. I can ask around, spread the word, donate a little money here and there, send a card of encouragement, pray, pray, and pray.

Get off the pew, look around, really see the needs in your circle of knowledge and influence, and then respond. Get off the pew!

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