Your life? You didn’t build that.

The very idea that there are people who so firmly believe that most individuals who are poor and stuck in poverty are there by their own volition is absolutely astounding to me.

As I tend to mention, I’ve lived a very hashtagblessed life, and have been given opportunity after opportunity to redeem and further my lot on this Earth; even in the face of grave and serious mistakes, whether relational or vocational. While I’m by no means living like Kanye, one wouldn’t look at me and consider me to be impoverished, as I live just a shade double above the poverty line. Even with this truth in mind, I’m still stressed out of my gourd with financial difficulties, uncertainties, and responsibilities. Basically, all the “tees” you can think of have me freaking out left and right, and that’s for just a single guy with a dog.

There are others who are in far dire straits than I am, and you’ll sometimes come across an individual who believes it’s mostly their own fault. That they aren’t picking themselves up by their bootstraps and doing the work necessary to bring themselves out of their current predicaments.

It’s this self-help mentality that our country seemingly was founded on, even though it’s greatly mythologized and exaggerated. When President Obama was grossly misquoted as saying, “…you didn’t build that”, it was viewed by many on the political right as an attack on those entrepreneurial individuals who make this country the greatest country in the history of the cosmos, and he was thusly deemed socialism incarnate.

What a crock of shit.

When it comes to poverty, there are systemic problems at play, along with a litany of personal and individuals circumstances. Let’s not even get into the historical issues regarding socio-economic status, regional upbringing, and racial leg-sweeping from the Cobra Kai that is the overprivileged white male. (Oh look, there’s my self-aware liberal white man card. Two more stamps and I get a free blueberry scone during my next visit.)

I guess what I’m trying to say in my own roundabout way is that the next time you encounter a homeless or impoverished person (which is hopefully often, or else you’re not really following Jesus’ words all that well), take a moment to wonder to yourselves what brought them to their current situation. Ask what factors come into play, and how much of it is truly based simply on their own actions. Then seriously consider what factors came into play for the success you’re currently experiencing, or hope to in the near future. What kind of job did your parents have? How much money did they make? Are you white? Do you have a penis? Does your penis earn more money for the same job a vagina might have? (Unless you work in porn, I bet it does.) And even if after all that navel gazing you still deem poverty to be a self-caused problem, just stop giving a crap.

A person is a person, and that person is of the same species as you; experiences the same emotions as you; and deals with the same sad truths in life as you (death, taxes, and probably a terrible sex life). Maybe they’ve made some stupid decisions along the way. Maybe they even “deserve” what they’re getting. Maybe you’re a sociopathic moron who can’t empathize with anyone because that would require you to relinquish some semblance of control over those around you. I don’t know; we all have our shit, man.

The next time you have the opportunity to make a positive difference in someone’s life, don’t base whether or not you do on whether or not they deserve it. Help them. Because I can guarantee one thing about your wonderful little existence: you didn’t build that; at least not by yourself.


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