Sunday, January 26, 2014

Income inequality=poverty?

Charity, Longstanton
Taken by Steve Day
Is it me or does it seem that poverty is so uncool that the kids are talkin' income inequality these days. From what I've heard the two are not the same, it includes the poor, but you get to talk about the middle class too. It sounds like the old we must put down the rich* to help the poor mess, just wrapped up in new clamshell packaging.
A few months ago I heard something inspiring. A missionary was in some random African village and wanted to help women whose children were starving. He was thinking of all sorts of programs he could start, but then he noticed not every woman in the village had starving children. So he went to a woman whose children were well fed to see what she was doing and to see if he could get the women with the starving children to emulate her. For him the point of the story was that he, white western guy did NOT have all the answers and to make a comment about Americans and European aid efforts. To me, it was see what is working in an area with real people, and use that as a model.
What does this have to do with income equality? Not much, but as you might notice it does have something to do with poverty.
Bono, the rock star worldwide-poverty activist admitted that aid was just a stop-gap. The income inequality being bantered about sounds like more stop gaps as the solution. And then the problem is there is no solution, no end. We shall always have poverty with us, but we can try to change the image of it, so that there are fewer starving people, and more of G-d's justice.
Despite many decades of people saying the middle class is doomed, and income inequality is an excuse to steal some poverty limelight for the middling classes, I think the middle class is doing okay. We have photos in our dining area of our family. My grandmother with her kin, when she was younger, my grandparents, his great and grand-parent-family (it is a group picture), and my aunts and uncles. They are a lovely reminder that we come from peasant stock. In the early and middle 20th Century we were lumberjacks living in log cabins and North Carolina sharecroppers. In the early 21st century, we work in climate controlled offices where we ignore texts on our cell phones. So I think we've done alright. Not everyone made it to middle-class-dom, but I have some hope for the next generation of those who didn't. For the next generation, we hope to be the example of how you do it, how you get out of poverty, like the woman in the village, and none of it involves the rich suffering.

*Does not include all wealthy. Just the one's who are in the spotlight.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Gender, church, in the car with Mari

Before we were married, back when we were just friends, the Help would drive me home and to facilitate conversation, we'd have in-the-car-with-Mari questions. Sometimes these were deep, sometimes they were light and silly. Between have you found Jesus and in a fight who would win, Batman or Superman? Yes, and possibly Superman, if you wanted the answers. I recently got a kindle, and to reduce our ongoing fight about his driving. Seriously the only thing keeping him at the wheel is my inability to confidently drive a stick shift. The kindle has produced something to replace the in-the-car-with-Mari questions, it's me quoting from whatever book I'm reading and asking his thoughts on the matter.
I'm reading two books right now. Both on gender. One written by a woman, the other by a man. I got the one written by the guy because I would read something from the sample I had (I go through a lot of kindle samples) to the Help as he drove and he would ask questions that I knew well were far deeper in the book. So I wound up getting all of Why Men Hate Going to Church by David Murrow. Mainly because it was only $2.99 for the kindle. Any more than $4 and I was going to wait till I was done with the other book.
We've also been listening, in part, very small on my end, to a radio program on a Christian station that has been talking about gender. We hear it when the Help is horribly spoiling me by driving me to work. I know, I should bike. Before and right after we married we also read Christian books on similar topics of gender and wives relationships to their husbands and vis versa. I'd hear part of it in the morning and he'd tell me more of what they said in the evening when we returned home.
To sum everything up. Men are different from women.  I know breaking news. Beside the physical aspects, men are different than women inside, in how we think and desire to interact with the world.
But going back to Murrow's book we have been talking about what the book says about American churches and our own church experience. The Help's church is healthy and growing. There is a good male presence in the pews. There are fathers with their families, lots of single men, and some married men sans their wives. The Help, on most Sundays is also sans spouse. This is the mirror opposite of a lot of churches according the Murrow book.
I like a church with a good healthy male presence. When there is singing I like hearing the depth of the male voice. There is hardly any singing at the mass I attend (totally fine with it) and I'm content with our mass though a more crowded mass is a healthier mass. We're kinda spread out in the big space so it is hard to judge the gender gap. But gender gap or not, it's a 15 minute walk from the house, the Saturday mass is short and I like the priest. But when I was an Anglican and church shopping, I preferred a nice healthy male presence.
Men, they're good to have around.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Government taxes isn't charitable giving

I'm going to ignore the greatest type of giving done in America, gifts to religious institutions and talk about other giving.
We give. We give money to food quality groups, advocacy groups, gardening groups, legal groups, local help the helpless groups, arts groups, cultural/history groups, alumni groups and hey-we're-doing-this-cool-thing-and-we-happen-2B-a-nonprofit-groups.
Some money goes to make up for what the local or federal or state government doesn't give, like with alumni groups. Some of our money funds scholarships, so that's less money someone has to take out a loan. Some money helps programs at my (the Help has some negative feelings about his alma mater) old school that aren't funded by the school and probably seem unworthy of fully funding by the people of Florida or Massachusetts. Food stamps are supposed to feed everyone, but they don't. So we give to a program that feeds people on the streets and another that provides families with healthy food options they can cook at home. I know the some arts and cultural programs get a portion of their funding from government sources, but not all, and at some weird times, have their govt funding cut altogether. We give to the museum that the Help is on the board of, they get their basic support from a local government, but to do more programming, that money comes from private sources.
Some money goes to groups who try to get the government to change their mind. I'm thinking of one non-profit that works with refugees and immigrants in the US. I'm also thinking of the bicycling group that tries to get the government to stop hatin' on cyclists with laws and a bureaucratic culture that assumes the cyclist is ALWAYS in the wrong and give us some more bike lanes. I'm thinking of groups that challenge overreach and declined applications for benefits. I'm thinking of gardening groups that might have to fight one part of the local government from seizing and bulldozing over a lot given for community gardening. I'm thinking of food groups that fight a mindset in government given over to big-Ag and junk food.
Then there are the odd-ball groups that do things that would be stupid for the government to do, like Christmas toys for innercity kids, hair for cancer patients (that would be creepy) and crocheted hats for premies.
And almost none of them blow up or kill brown people on the other side of the world in my name, or spy on me or my neighbors, nor do any of the non-profits I give to can put me in jail and take away my property if I don't hand money over to them.

Help & Sunday School

The Help's church decided that it would be great for him to assist with Sunday school since we're preparing for adopting children. They figured he couldn't go wrong with the pre-school/ Kindergarten set. I agree, considering he didn't grow up in a church environment, he's learning along with the kids.
When he returns home, I ask how did class go? My own memories of Sunday school are incredibly vague, but I'm sure it involved less coloring and crafts. This week's lesson ran close to the Catholic calender, with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord featuring St. John. But the lesson plan is written for Presbyterians so they can't be following any liturgical calendar can they?
I ask what did they learn and a usual lesson is 'obey your parents' like Jesus did. My response has been, well what about that time when Teen Jesus stuck around the temple and Mary & Joseph were halfway home before they realized he wasn't with them? They don't cover that.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

What I want

What do I want?
Right now it is to get the energy to look at the new soup recipe and the old osso buco recipe for tonight's dinner. But laziness and procrastination is working right now.
I now if I pull off the soup recipe and it isn't some horrible inedible mash I'll be really happy. For a short while.
Overall what do I want? I don't have a bucket list, so this is what I'd like looking back on my life whenever it get's near the end.
I want to feel the presence of G-d constantly in my current and later years.
I want to be the best wife I can be. Not the best wife ever, because I don't know what price that is, and it's subjective. The best wife I can be to the Help (my male spousal unit) has a lot to do with me and him and our personalities. Three years in and we're doing pretty good.
I want to be a mother. I want to be a mentor mother, someone who teaches those under my care to love G-d and others.
I want to be the known expert research historian in my specialized area. It would be awesome if I got paid for it too.
I want to be happy. Luckily, at this moment, I am.
I want a vacation home where there is fishing.
I want a comfy chair, a good book, and Earl Grey, hot.
I want relatively successful and moral nieces and nephews.

I have other minor wants, like a nice long thick cashmere sweater with decent pockets, but as I wrote, I'm blessed and fairly happy.