Monday, November 11, 2013

“Compassion, my friends, is not a simpering slogan or a lachrymose
litany of smiley faces. It is, I suggest, a discipline-one that demands
action based on the idea of suffering together. “(Kip Tiernan)

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Being people of faith ain’t easy for sure. Because it means we keep on going no matter how bad things may look. Kip’s message is clear about that.
Just when you think things couldn’t possibly get any worse and you think you couldn’t get any madder….We at PPUF are full of fury! Under the radar of all the noise of Obama’s problematic website and Red Sox fever … comes a wallop from our MA legislators in the form of “An Act to Foster Economic Independence”.

One of its new policies would require photographs on the card people use to purchase food.
The ACLU says “Requiring recipients of cash benefits and food stamps (SNAP) to use EBT cards with their photographs on them would stigmatize people who receive government assistance, single out poor shoppers for scrutiny by store clerks, run afoul of federal regulations requiring equal treatment for SNAP recipients, burden businesses, and waste taxpayer money.”
Another of its policies would require proof applicants are actively seeking a job before getting any cash assistance. Advocates report that anyone applying for cash assistance would automatically be turned down the first time they apply. Then the applicant would have to wait 3 months before applying again gathering proof of a job search during that period. How are people to survive during those 3 months?

We don’t have Newt to blame or Mitt or Bill Weld for this one…slamming the door on access to welfare benefits falls squarely on the shoulders of our MA Democratic House.
With the number of homeless families in Massachusetts seeking shelter in hotels and motels hitting an all-time high of 2,038 and with the reality of one in seven people in our state relying on food stamps how could our legislators possibly decide it would be a good idea to curtail access to welfare benefits?

As if living in a motel room with small children isn’t bad not enough- think about the location of most motels. Near a highway. Isolated. No supermarkets to buy food. No cooking allowed. Many of these homeless families are also facing hunger because they have no access to food. That should make us all cringe at any point in time.... but especially during Thanksgiving season...

There are frightening increases in human suffering all around us. The response thus far has been less than compassionate. George Steiner, the Holocaust essayist, tells us that “tragedy becomes possible when cultures become less rational in behavior and belief.” We can certainly see this in the U.S today. I read one person’s online response to those of us who seek justice for poor people, “Wake up and realize that all poor people are lazy and everyone could find a well-paying job if they really wanted to!”

In spite of these cruel attitudes in the legislature and the general public there are throngs of dedicated advocates who jump into action in order to mitigate untold hardships being visited on people whose only crime is that they are poor.  PPUF’s Georgia and PPUF friend Vicky are among those keeping a vigilant eye on the development of policies that will negatively impact poor people. They keep us connected to the prophetic hope that people like us can make a difference.

Though it’s easy to get discouraged--- we don’t have that luxury. People are counting on us...harsh realities are being created for them by those in power.

Hanukkah will be celebrated on the same day as Thanksgiving this year. And though
there is more to this Jewish holiday than 8 days of gift giving, it is still safe to say that
the holiday reminds us that we must safeguard our spiritual homes and keep the flame of compassion glowing. One way to do that is to make sure you talk to your legislator about maintaining benefits to the thousands of people suffer the indignities of poverty.

As we move toward Thanksgiving we move forward in gratitude for the many people who support PPUF and other organizations that advocate for poor and homeless people.