I spent the last 4 days doing work and helping with kids at the Fredrick Douglas Christian School in Chester, PA (a “ghetto” right outside of Philadelphia) and realized how much of a jerk I really am. Watching the community of Chester was like a slap in the face to me. The public schools were run down and had the lowest rated education in PA. The kids lucky enough to attend the private World Impact School I stayed at, although perhaps a step ahead of the others still lived at poverty level often with no money for food, clothes or even heating. I had to hold my tongue when a ten year old was shocked to see that I was in college when I should be working a full-time job, which he was planning to quit school and do as soon as he was old enough. I had to remember that quitting school and getting a job was not a necessarily unadmirable thing to do in his situation. I had to close my eyes and pray that at least a few of these beautiful children would be able to make it to college or at least out of this town. The church I attended on Sunday amazed me, to see the shouts thanks to God from men, women and children for the Lord getting them out of bed that morning and to church and to see the excitement dedication and courage in the young man who led the service that morning which surpassed the dedication and courage of many students who attended Messiah College with me. Yes, I was reminded of how selfish I am. Me, a student at a private Christian college, from a middle class town and family who has provided for my every need, had the gall to complain about anything. I was jealous that my friend’s parents had just given her an Acura while my parents could not afford to pay for a car for each of them, let alone me, while they were putting me through college. I had just bought 2 new CDs on a whim while on South Street. How many times had my friends and I complained about the mystery meat in the cafeteria? Worst of all, I had felt good about myself for paying the forty dollars to come help out this school.
It shouldn’t have been an option for me. So what? The group of students I was with and I gave a little time and money to help out, then we went back to our privileged lives. Then we will discuss with others what a shame it is to see what some people have to live with and then go and wallow some more in our self-pity and do nothing more to help.
Many of us, and many of you, probably feel guilty for being born into the positions we were born into. How many have shed a tear when you see the Children International or Compassion Commercials on TV? We don’t have to feel guilty about not living in poverty, but if we have a conviction and do nothing, aren’t we all the more guilty than those living in ignorance. I know that we can probably never repair all the damage done to the people in Chester, or other towns or countries who do not have a sufficient supply of money, but that doesn’t give us a right to do nothing. For those of your who follow the teachings of Christ, remember that the Bible says that the best thing we can do is sell all we have and give it to the poor (Matt. 19:18-24). No matter how you interpret the seriousness of this advisement in the Bible, it is clearly telling us to give what we can to the poor. Even if you do not follow the Bible, I believe that many of you our there have a true concern for your fellow man/woman. Give what you can. For some it’s time. For others it is money. We can take the initiative to send money to a program that is doing something, join a work project, mentor a child, send old books, clothes and furniture to people who could use them. Small things can make a big difference. Don’t do it out of guilt, but out of love and concern for others and/or obedience to the Bible. Most of all, think before you complain about your life. Chances are things aren’t nearly as bad for you as they seem.