Saturday, March 14, 2015

Lessons in Helping the Poor

Have you read the short story known as “A $50 Lesson” which has circulated on the internet for several years?  In this story, a young girl explains to her neighbor in the hearing her liberal progressive parents how she, if elected President of the United States, would give top priority to helping the homeless.   As we learn from reading the “original version of ‘A $50 Dollar Lesson’,” the girl’s parents are encouraged by her commitment to social justice on behalf of the homeless.  However, when the girl’s neighbor suggested a fiscally conservative solution to helping the homeless—one that could end his dependence on government aid and reinforce his dignity as a human being, her liberal parents essentially “go away mad.”  While the ending to the story may bring glee to fiscal conservatives and exasperation to liberal progressives, I believe the account falls far short of a higher purpose.

Jubilee Leadership Academy:  Restoration of the Whole Person
What if I were to tweak the “Lesson” to illustrate how a conservative approach would deliver true social justice by addressing the "whole person?"  And what's more, my altered scenario is not only possible but demonstrable.  Today, there are numerous well run assistance programs helping people financially as well as emotionally and spiritually. 

For example, Jubilee Leadership Academy*, Prescott, WA uses a farm operation, as a setting in which to transform the lives of young men.  After all, God is calling His people to help restore the poor not only materially but also in terms of personal responsibility and dignity.   And, all the while, to achieve these ends while also building bridges of understanding among people of all political persuasions, and ultimately between Creator and human kind.  With that thought in mind, please read my modified version of “A $50 Dollar Lesson.”  Hopefully, you'll find that this version replaces the barbs between liberals and conservatives with a bridge of understanding that could bring diverse political philosophies together for a common purpose:


Recently, while I was working in the flower beds
in the front yard, my neighbors stopped to chat as they
returned home from walking their dog.
During our friendly conversation, I asked their little girl
what she wanted to be when she grew up.  She said she
wanted to be President someday.

Her parents who were both liberal progressives
were standing there so I asked her, "If you were President
what would be the first thing you would do?”

She replied, "I'd give food and houses to all the homeless
people." Her parents beamed with pride!

"Wow...what a worthy goal!" I said.  "But you don't have to
wait until you're President to do that!" "What do you mean?"
she replied.  So I told her, "You can come over to my house
and mow the lawn, pull weeds, and trim my hedge, and I'll pay
you $50.  Then you can go over to the grocery store where
the homeless guy hangs out, and you can give him the $50
to use toward food and a new house."

She thought that over for a few seconds, then she looked me
straight in the eye and asked, "Why doesn't the homeless guy come
over and do the work, and you can just pay him the $50?

I said, "Great!  Now you’re thinking like a conservative.” 
Sometime, if you and your family would like to come with me
I’ll show you around my farm** outside of town.
I pay a staff to run the farm which provides jobs for homeless men.
In turn, the men earn an income from the sale
of fruits, vegetables, and poultry.
Many earn their way back into responsible living,
and some even stay on to work on my staff.

Her parents were both scratching their chins.

Modifying the “Original $50 Dollar Lesson” by removing the political barbs and adding an example of practical solutions to lead the homeless from dependence to independence seems pertinent to the current debate over how to address our failing welfare system and its fruit of spiraling human dependence.  As Mindy Belz writes in her article, “Greek Tragedy” [WORLD, Feb. 21, 2015], with reference to the failing economy in Greece,

… now is the time for Americans to flee our own country’s growing dependence on government entitlements.  Such “anti-poverty” benefits are a staggering growth industry that’s changing the character of our nation and its standing in the world.

Perhaps the “$50 Dollar Lesson” if properly taught, could save us billions and, more importantly, save many souls for eternity.  Who might be headed your way looking for an opportunity to rise to a challenge?
* NOTE:  I modified this original "50. Dollar Lesson" scenario to the form as presented here.
** If you are not a WORLD Magazine subscriber but wish to read about Jubilee Leadership Academy*, Prescott, WA, just contact me at and I’ll see that you get the complete article.

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