Good news these days is like a Spring-like day in a North Dakota January. So I’m taking advantage of it for as long as it lasts.
As you know, free money is on its way from the Federal government to make up a little of the difference for those whose jobs have been shut down to keep as many Americans as safe as possible during the pandemic. That’s a good thing, but not the best of the good things I had in mind. What I’m thinking about is not only the money that will be delivered to those who need it most, but that which will be passed on to them through those who need it least.
Just think of it. The millions of Americans who already have pretty pudgy savings accounts, out of the goodness of their hearts, re-gifting the checks that they receive from the government to those who need it more than they do!
This epiphany came to me when a Facebook friend posted a message decrying how much people in our country “enjoy getting their free money.” She is a hyper-conservative, a strident critic of the “welfare state” and those who take advantage of any government assistance. It made my day, thinking about how, given her predisposition, she would undoubtedly not keep her free money but give away to the poor or ministries that serve them, and that millions of other Americans would do the same!
Not knowing her financial situation, I suppose it’s possible that my friend is for the first time in her life in need of government assistance herself just to pay her rent and buy food for the family. In such case, it makes me happy for the check coming her way, but even more than that, I would dance a happy dance that for the first time in her life she would feel a tiny piece of what the 46 million impoverished Americans feel 24/7 whose economic prospects are interminably bleak and need our government’s generous helping-hand every month. In that case, she would get her own epiphany as she begins to identify with the crisis of the poor.
This whole scenario is such a recipe for empathy, something many Americans (American Christians included) haven’t felt much of for a long time! Millions get the first government money they’ve ever received in their lives and for the first time they actually need it, and not just so they can keep up the payments on their timeshare, their sailboat, or 60-inch flat screen TV. But now that they need it for their own necessities they aren’t able to re-gift it as they’d like. But once the virus is handled and they’re back to work, don’t you just know that they’ll be poised to share their bounty with those who need it most! Hallelujah!
I can hardly contain my happiness that people, whose needs are paltry by comparison to the truly poor, will learn the truth that Franklin Roosevelt shared with the country during the Great Depression: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”
The good news in these very bad times is that our country is about to “progress” into a more egalitarian culture and free of class distinctions. We will realize that as Martin Luther King preached, “God never intended for one group of people to live in superfluous inordinate wealth, while others live in abject deadening poverty. God intended for all of his children to have the basic necessities of life, and he has left in this universe ‘enough and to spare’ for that purpose. So I call upon you to bridge the gulf between abject poverty and superfluous wealth.”
As awful as the virus is to the health of millions and as terrible as its consequence to the economies of the world, this is a glimmer of hope for many Americans going forward.
For the first time, they’re in a situation, temporary though it may be, they will realize that they’re no different from those whom they’ve always judged as simply lazy people. It reminds me of the guy who is pinned under his car and his neighbor comes out and yells: “Why don’t you get off your lazy butt and cut the grass? I cut my grass. Fred cuts his grass. People who don’t cut their grass are just lazy.” Now these days a lot of people are beginning to get what it’s like to be pinned down and unable to make a living. And once they get out from under it they’ll be more compassionate toward their neighbors who are still unable to extract themselves from their circumstances.
I predict that we will all be motivated to live a simpler and more generous life from now on. We will take advantage of the opportunity to more fully identify with those for whom limitations have always been a daily reality, way before COVID-19 ever invaded our little worlds. The more-well-off and the not-at-all-well-off will become closer to each other, both economically and relationally, and will level our cultural playing field.
Good news in these bad times!
Do you believe it or am I just being silly?