That Which You Do Unto the Least of These

When you're poor -- and especially when you're homeless -- some of the people you encounter seem to buy into a huge fallacy: they believe that somehow, low income equates to low intelligence. The problem comes when these same worthies, believing you to be generally lacking in wit, endeavor to give you the benefit of their superior wisdom and experience, completely discounting the fact that you may have some of your own.

Unfortunately, all too often, there is a thin line between "sure, I'll help you out" and "here, let me do that for you" with the implication that your mind isn't of sufficient calibre to handle such mental gyrations.

Of course, once that mindset is established, then comes the belief that since the would-be patron is already doing things for you, then they can treat you with as much disrespect as they like. Snide comments, condescending lectures, and an ersatz parent-child relationship soon follow. Meanwhile, your sense of decorum* dictates that you quietly pay attention and perhaps even smile politely while undergoing these ministrations. But inside all the while, you're seething and wishing you could simply tell this person off. Yes, they're helping, but how dare they patronize you in such a manner. This is especialy irritating when the helper is only some fraction of your age and experience.

Even governments get into the act. Before North Carolina finally passed legislation to allow a state lottery, one of the chief arguments against it was "it'll hurt the poor." Of course, this is the same poor that is trusted to drive, vote, raise children, indulge in vices, work and act responsibly in emergencies. The politicians talk loftily over the heads of the very people who they think they're helping as if these people suddenly have lost all capacity for independent thought just because they want to play a game that citizens of other states enjoy.

Another way such patronization manifests is the extra rules and regulations that are heaped upon the poor whenever they want to engage in an activity that members of the upper classes take for granted. For example, poor people who want to buy a house (those few who get in a position to be able to) are often subjected to heaping helpings of "homebuyer education" that no rich person would ever have to suffer through.

There is also the tiresome qualifier that poor people often must endure whenever they are forced to ask for help. Such help is often coupled with such statements as "okay, but just this once" or "you only have [x] times to do this" or "I'm not in the habit of doing this" or "okay, but only until [some specified near future date]". Or some variation of the foregoing. Such qualifiers are demeaning because, let's face it -- read them over and then ask yourself if they sound like something you may have used on a kid at some point. Remember, you're dealing with adults; the qualifier need not be mentioned, it's expected.

The people at our host churches (such as Muir's Chapel UMC, our current church) are examples of the contrary. Every IHN volunteer has treated us with the utmost respect and consideration that we are just as smart and capable as everyone else. In fact, they seem to go out of their way to let us do our own thinking and come to our own conclusions. And that's always a welcome breath of fresh air.

Would that more would-be helpers would do the same, without lectures, without begrudging, without preconceived assumptions of our intellectual state.

*Southern translation: "keepin' the peace."

You re right, Mike. the problem is because we are being told that poor people are perpetual screw ups and there fore not much better than the mentally retarded. I mean, if it wasnt so then they would not be poor would they. Its like when people tell you you dont wont to work because you re not looking for a job its a career you re looking for. And additionally, what is the point of leaving one career(this is my confrontation) for a job that doesnt come with the higher status and same dead end-ness(no prospect for prosperity is what I want to say). It sounds like its far from the point but what I truly mean is that somehow we are always compelled to listen to people who know nothing about the world give us advice--bad advice--as though they truly are worldly. What does it sound like to all of you out there? And how do you know if it is You that gives stupid advice? Think of it as this, Would you take heart surgery instructions from your gardener? Would you take tax advice from your auto mechanic? With this is mind, ask yourself next time you feel compelled to give advice...DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT IS OF WHICH YOU SPEAK?
So avolokitisvara... who would be the perfect person in your eyes that would be qualified to give you advice and that you'd accept? Do you feel that only poor people have the right to give advice to other poor people? Just curious.
I think the best person to give advice is some one who has ACTUALLY been in the shoes(remember the Indian proverb...) you re in. That person can offer the most insight and the best resolution. What is the point of listening to "know-it-alls"? I hav had people give me all sorts of advice that only sounded stupid because it was 5 degrees behind what I was doing at the moment or the direction I had wanted to progress in. Its like if I told Mike that he should look for a job at KFC or McD's. How does that help him out? It doesnt. He already has a low paying job that doesnt generate enough income o rent an apartment. What s the point of bouncing from that one to this one? Thats the line I m traveling in here with the bad advice. People would insinuate he s lazy because he deflects the lame advice he s gotten from me. Now, if I told him Mike, my cousin is in good with the NC State Highway Department you should try to get on as a road striper or road kill canvasser. Thats good advice. Why? Because knowing government jobs, it may pay well or at least much more than what he has now. Even coming with health benefits for the family. Thats the difference. There is advice that is beneficial(life changing) and that that is awkwardly useless(life perpetuating). You follow me?
the best advice comes from the person I choose to ask for advice.

not the people who freely choose to give it.

battered women in safe houses and shelters are often treated to this phenomena as well - of being treated like children, treated like they are incapable, and patronized to. Its very insulting.

It would be nice if people would remember, There but for the grace of god, go I.

Even if they aren't religious, the sentiment can be the same.
avolokitisvara... VERY well said! And maybe that is why I seem to have trouble getting people to listen to my advice. As you might as well have read, I've been in the same spot that Mike finds himself in today, but I find it irrelavant to the advice that I give insomuch as that my advice is general enough that EVERYBODY could benefit from it. Wouldn't you agree that THAT is the best advice of all?

I'll ask once again... WHAT DO YOU WANT TO KNOW? Do you realze that you've yet to ask a question? Do you realize that you've told all of us who've read your comments that you are NOT successful? Do you NOW KNOW why your "advice" should NOT be followed because you've only told us what went WRONG for your and not what has gone RIGHT? What makes you believe that you are the voice of reason? I am willing to put up the facts to back up my claims, but are you?

I don't want to bash you or piss you off. I SWEAR to you that I do not. If you are of Christian faith, than I refer you to the passage that states "Ask and you shall receive, Seek and ye shall find, Knock and it shall be openned to you." I live by this rule in everything I do in life, and I am once again offering this to you and anybody else who wishes to take advantage. Maybe you can answer this one question for me instead... "Why hasn't ANYBODY taken me up on my offer?"

In DIRECT reponse to your reply, I'll tell you that you need a balance between the advice given from somebody who's "been there before" AS WELL AS the person who has successfully AVOID that situation entirely. They both offer "exclusive" advice coming from different perspectives that can be combined to get out of and avoid forever that situation. For example, take an alcoholic...

The best advice the (ex-)alcoholic can give you is that you should avoid temptation (bars, liquor stores, other alcoholics, etc.) The best advice the "never been an alcoholic" can give you is to how to limit your drinking (3 drink limit, avoid hard liquor, drink on special occasions only, etc.) You can't deny that BOTH views are correct and beneficial, but if you disregard the advice from the non-alcoholic you're forced to follow the advice of the ex-alcoholic (unless you just want to be an alcoholic, which means you'll disregard both!)

I follow the advice of both myself. Sometimes I'll drink too much two or three days in a row and then I won't touch a drop for a month except social situations, where I KNOW that if I were to drink too much my reputation will be irrepairable, but if I don't drink then my reputation would be perceived as being a "wet noodle". I DECIDED by myself based on the advice of people from numerous points of view how I live my life. I don't get to a point where I drink so much that I become an alcoholic and I don't get to a point where I'd sacrifice my career over a simple misunderstanding as not accepting the gracious offer of a drink from a client.

Point is, avolokitisvara... You're setting yourself up for disaster. You're a con artist away from being scammed. I have studied and become an expert in the field of human behavior (without a degree from fancy college, but trust me, I will put my knowledge up against ANYBODY any day if they wish to debate it!) to know that it can be used for evil or for good. I tell you nothing but the truth, and I back it up by saying that you SHOULD check my facts before taking my words at face value. I also back it up with references to what I'm saying by providing links to explanations, theories and facts on my own blog. avolokitisvara... Please please PLEASE believe me that from your words I could manipulate and influence you into my way of thinking at a WHIM simply by lying to you. I SWEAR to you that you've fallen into one of the 7 categories of Influence simply by reading your post. You've told me that you'll accept the advice of somebody who's been in your situation before ("I think the best person to give advice is some one who has ACTUALLY been in the shoes(remember the Indian proverb...) you re in") and you've never revealed HOW you know that person really HAS been in that situation! I IMPLORE you to CHANGE YOUR THINKING to accept advice from ALL possible angles first before somebody who is almost as educated in Human Behavior takes advantage of you.

To end this rant, I'll sum up... If you have ANY QUESTION AT ALL that you'd like ANSWERED, ASK ME! PLEASE ASK ME! I'm begging you to appease me and ASK ME THAT QUESTION! Thank you.
I LOVE this blog... Mike, I made a statement before that I wish to revise slightly... I said that you really AREN'T helping out the homeless because you don't fit the "profile" of your average "Homeless Person". I still stand behind those statements until proven wrong, but I wish to add that you've given us all the OPPORTUNITY to not only help others in "different but the same" situations but people like myself to revisit and remember similar situations that others are going through. On that note...

Txfeminist... Do you realize that your username and comments have revealed a LARGE amount of your life? Do you realize that for a person such as myself can IMMEDIATELY analyize and understand where your thoughts and feelings stem from? Do you also realize that you're asking questions even though your comments lack a question mark? And most IMPORTANTLY, do you have the courage to swallow your pride and consider/confirm the advice of somebody who can help you? I hope so, because what I'm about to say might help you out more than you'd ever realize right now.

My mother was, I guess you could say, was a battered spouse back in the 70's (I'm SURE there was a different term for this back then!) but she decided to leave my father and take us kids with her (my sister and I) rather than find help (long story, but (A) this explains a little further how I become homeless for a month when I was 7 or so and (B) how it wasn't the best decision in the world!)

Well, ever since I've become an adult my mother has, over the years, told my sister and I things we didn't want to know then and didn't want to know now! What she didn't tell us until we incessantly questioned her about it was that my father, years later, no only admitted to his "mistakes" in this situation but also that he apologized to my mother and tried (until the day he died!) to make ammends for it.

What's the point of all this? Well, I'm 32 years old now and Pops died when I was 30, but from the age of 21 or so to 30 I tried to convince my mother that Dad was truly sorry for how he treated her during their marrige and how she could be the "better person" and forgive him. As a CHRISTIAN woman, the LEAST she could do is forgive somebody who BEGGED for her forgiveness! But she kept refusing and he kept trying until he died.

So you can imagine how PISSED OFF I was when she said to me "matter of factly" how she wished she had the chance to tell him she forgave him YEARS ago! Even in death my father somehow gave me the strength to bite my tounge (Ladies, if you have ANY sons in your household, you are now "On Notice" that usually your oldest son will be automatically thrust into the "Paternal" role to ALL of your children and that you should nurture and understand his newly unwanted role!) and not lay into Mom about all those years he begged for forgiveness and she dismissed him due to her own stubborness...

What is the point I'm trying to make? Well, Txfeminist... I'll say it bluntly first and then explain the meaning behind it, because it WON'T be what you will no doubt blindly percieve it to be... "GET OVER IT!" Oh MAN did that piss you off! But please continue to read my explanation...

You're a victim of spousal abuse youtself. You've seeked shelter and advice and you feel that you've been blamed for your own problems. Now, READ MY WORDS CAREFULLY... Are you to blame for your own problems? Did you leave your and your children's abusive life IMMEDIATELY after the first time you were battered? If you DID, then this does NOT apply to you. If you DIDN'T, then understand how somebody who's (A) never been beaten before and (B) somebody who's heard the SAME... EXACT... STORY OVER AND OVER again can become indifferent to your plight!

READ MY WORDS CAREFULLY... Your story mirrors EVERY SINGLE OTHER story that they've heard already. The names and the number of children change, but the STORIES STAY THE SAME. Don't think so? Then tell us your story... Make sure it doesn't include the following: I loved him, I did it for the kids, He'd find me or my personal favorite... "YOU WOULDN'T UNDERSTAND". You know what... I've never been battered and I've never been a woman (I swear!), but I understand more than you'd ever DREAM of knowing.

You were treated like a child because your lies made you a child. Why did you REALLY stay in an abusive relationship? Tell us the truth and we'll treat you like an adult. If you have children and put them in DANGER of being abused just as you were, then why would you EXPECT to be treated as an adult? Try explaining in a rational and logical manner how putting your children in danger could be JUSTIFIED and I'll admit ignorance and apologize. Please not that "He's never hit them before" is NOT a valid answer because statistics show... Well, you've been told about those statistics already... Try explaining to us why you believe it is NOT insulting to LIE and MANIPULATE those that are willing to help you? When you give an EXCUSE rather than a PROBLEM than you get treated as a COMPLAINER rather than a person in DISTRESS!

Txfeminist... I want you to truly THINK about responding before you actually type out your response. I will believe you if you tell me that I'm wrong, but you better have the truth on your side if you do. You will lose out on valuable information from everyone here willing to help you if you do lie. I can spot one from a mile away. It's one of my job functions in my career (IT People LIE CONSTANTLY!). If you agree, let us know as well. I hold no grudges or judgements against those who make mistakes. I actually embrace those who've made mistakes and help them to correct their errors. Thank you.
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