Monday, July 13, 2009

The Spiritual Series: Part II: Service

I didn't ask to be born in 1977 in America, in a conservative, middle class, stable family. It was a stroke of luck; a gift from God. It is my responsibility as an adult to use that privilege for good.

Continuously, I am overwhelmed by the struggles of people. I watch women in Iran marching on the streets for their rights (and being beaten, or shot and killed in some cases). I think of the mothers who, not so many years ago, died in childbirth before great maternity care. I think of the mothers around the world who struggle to give their families food, and my greatest struggle is whether or not to spend the money to build a deck on my already-pleasant home. I am humbled.

I am a Christian. I believe that Jesus Christ, in addition to being the savior, was an empathetic, amazing man. He taught love and kindness to all. He preached that we should take care of our neighbors, to feed and clothe our brothers. (Read Matthew 25:31-46). I am a follower of Jesus Christ, a Christian, and it is our responsiblity to take care of others.

In a present tense scenario, I think we should support our goverment in the quest to provide health insurance for all. There is no perfect plan; we are not perfect people. But when I think of the children, the parents, the elderly, the poor...struggling, dying without proper health care in the United States of America in 2009, I am reminded that Jesus asked us to give. Not to clutch our wealth to ourselves, but to give cheerfully. Treat all of humanity with love. (Read Romans 12)

I spend hours and hours thinking on current events. In spite of my busy life, I find myself feeling passionate about these things. I am challenged by those who think I cannot be "Christian" and "Liberal." I have been working through this in my head for many days now, and I think that if Liberal is what Webster says "a political philosophy based on the belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties" then, yes, I am Liberal. And now, in this babbling blog entry, I have peace with that.

I'd love your input. How does service factor into your life? How does the word of God speak to you and how you define service? I know that I am far less than perfect, but I also know that God made me to be exactly who I am and I continue to seek His guidance as I seek answers. May we all love our neighbors as ourselves. (Matthew 36:39)


Julie said...
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Julie said...

I love these kinds of posts. :) We have been discussing over here recently how the Bible says that there are two commandments that are the most important. One is to love God with all your heart, (mind, soul, etc.) and the other is to love your neighbor as yourself.

Okay, this might seem really spacey but bear with me on my ponderings. I thought about it on reading your very last line. It's interesting that the Bible says to "love your neighbor" and not to "do good unto your neighbor". I think there's a difference. We can all do good things, it doesn't take much and it can be easy to take the credit for it. Plus, we can do those nice things when it's convenient for us and go home and forget about it until next time. But to LOVE. (...Treat all of humanity with love...) That embraces a whole lot more and asks a lot more out of us! That's mercy, patience, service, forgiveness, compassion, etc. It would be very difficult to do even half of those things on our own! That is when the glory goes to God. "Loving"- it's dirty work! :)

Service can be so many things. It can be advocating for something you believe in- which you've done so much for, Leanne. I admire that. It can mean actually stopping just to make sure the broken down car on the side of the road really does have help and access to a cell phone, it can be asking for help yourself when you're afraid you're not going get through (you're doing a service to yourself and others). My dear friend will pray "Lord, love these kids through me because I'm sure NOT feeling an ounce of it right now!"

Anyway, that's my thoughts at the moment. I normally spend loads of time editing my rambling comments but not this time. I'm tired. :)

Julie said...

P.S. I'm glad you have peace with the political party you identify more with. It's part of who you are and you're pretty darn awesome. :)

Leanne said...

Thanks, Julie. I agree with your description of love and serve. I think I love best a quote that one of my friend's dads said, "Helping others might not get you to heaven, but if we're not supposed to help each other, what are we doing here?" :D

And it's not always easy, I should have added that in my post. It goes against our nature in so many ways to be loving. We're vengeful when we should be forgiving. We're greedy when we should be giving. We're too busy to see who needs us. I'm guilty of all of the above!

Laura Jean said...

I think Julie has a good point. Loving our neighbors is a whole love more than simply loving- and that's something we should always remember.

As far as politics, I guess you know where I stand there. For example, YES, I think everyone should receive healthcare. And I don't mind my taxes going up for it. However, I want to continue seeing MY doctor, and continue having all the services that Davin's insurance provides. I'm human, I'm selfish. But I truly believe there is a middle ground in there somewhere. And like I said, taxes don't bother me. I am fortunate for the life I lead, and while I do not want to, nor do I feel I need to give up 'luxuries' Davin (and I) work so hard for, I am willing to keep my mind open to what the democratic government can come up with to make sure every is taken care of.

That may have sounded completely selfish...

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but I have to disagree to the main point here. I work hard to provide the things that are essential to my family, including health care (i'm self employed). Wealthy people generally get their wealth by working hard and living within their means. A major problem in this country is a growing shift towards socialism and the sense of entitlement that people have to have things provided for them without having the put the long lifetime effort it can sometimes take to achieve certain things. That being said, your absolutly correct in stating that we should help out those less fortunate and those not capable (physically, mentally, ect) of devising a livelyhood to live a happy and healthy life. My point is that I do not feel the requirment to subsidize people who are perfectly capable of providing for themselves if they would only work hard and live withing their means.

Leanne said...

Anonymous - I wish you'd leave your name. We can have an intelligent discussion about it, but I really like to know who I'm responding to.

Here's my question: how do you discern between those who might be capable of earning their way and those who had the misfortune of being born into a world that didn't allow them the opportunity to obtain the things you did in your life? Should we not support the people who *need* social services because of the percentage of people who will abuse the system? Do you think we should get rid of social services because of the people who currently do (ie welfare, unemployment, medicare...)?

I just reaffirm that I think Jesus would want to give to everyone, deserving or not. That's the very definition of Grace.

elizabeth said...

Along with Leanne's last comment, the "work hard and live within your means" argument posits that people who cannot afford to provide things like health insurance, etc. for their family are neither working hard nor living within their means. In reality, that is not always the case (I would say rarely, but ..) - and there are so many people who are working much harder than the average person yet still cannot afford health insurance (for example). It is hard, however, to really discuss this properly in a blog.

How timely - I posted a quote on my blog that sums up my opinion on the matter of service/giving .. and I also agree with the "love thy neighbor as thyself". We are all connected, whether we realize it or not, and loving and helping our neighbors (without worrying so much about whether they are worthy or deserve our help - because we are all worthy and deserving - no one is more so than others) benefits us all.

"You often say, "I would give, but only to the deserving." The trees in your orchards say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture. They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish. Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and his nights, is worthy of all else from you .. And who are you that men should rend their bosom and unveil their pride, that you may see their worth naked and their pride unabashed?"

(I know, I know .. I could post my views instead of resorting to quotes, but why ramble on when someone has already said what I'd say - and much more eloquently, LOL)

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry about remaining anonymous, you don't have to post this. I do agree with you that we have to provide for the part of society that is less fortunate than ourselves and unable to provide themselves for certain reasons. However, as noble as I think it is to state that "Jesus would want to give to everyone, deserving or not", I don't think it is necessarily a benefit to society or more importantly, to the people defined as those "not deserving". I feel that by taking care of people that have the potential and capability to provide for themselves that these people start to lose the ambition and desire to work hard and acheive things on their own, and inevitably leads to a sense of entitlement and a system based on socialism. In the end, I think we agree on allot, but at the same time I think the smaller the government the better will lead to a country that steers more towards the principals that it was founded on, that hard work will provide you those things you so desire, while also taking care of our fellow man incapable of taking care of themselves. One more quick point, I realize you and I have had a relatively privleged upbringing that provided more opportunities than most, however, I don't necessarily think that a person growing up in detroit mi can or should use his situation as an excuse not to succeed, if anything those people have my utmost respect that manage to dig their way out and make something of themselves rather than using their surroundings and upbringing as a reason not to... I'm done, sorry!

Amy said...

Thanks for the post Leanne! This has given me lots to think about. I often think about service to others but then my own life seems to get in the way. I always feel that I am too busy, too tired or too anything to take time to help someone else or to notice that someone else needs help.
About the healthcare- it doesn't have to be given just made affordable and accessable to everyone. There are many jobs out there that people work very hard at and still don't get benefits and can't afford private healthcare because the wage they are given barely covers the basic needs! Lots of these people are the people who are providing all the services (luxuries)that people consider they are entitled to.

Leanne said...

Anon - (I suspect I know who you area anyway. :)) I understand what you're saying. I think a lot of people think like you. I'm just not one of them. I wish you'd be comfortable enough with your position to share your identity, but it's okay - you represent a large number of people I am constantly answering these questions for.

It's pretty easy to say they shouldn't use their upbringing as a crutch, but without stepping in their shoes and walking around in them, it's kind of hard to judge that, IMO.

For example, let's say a child in born in Detroit MI (your example) to a poor, single mother. He or she is giving substandard educuation (as most inner city schools are), minimal health care, and of course the surroundings of less-than-favorable circumstances -drugs, violence, etc. - things you and I are complete strangers to.

If you really put yourself there, you can see how it might be difficult to become a middle-class, self-employed, self-insured individual as yourself. Or me.

And that doesn't even begin to address those middle-class, working people who cannot afford health insurance even at their moderate income levels! What if they're self-employed and their child has a pre-existing condition? God forbid. Or becomes gravely ill? Seriously, people are DYING because of this problem. There are stories everywhere if you look for them.

Amy - I TOTALLY agree. It can be just an OPTION, it doesn't have to be a gift. Absolutely. I have a long diatribe about that too, but I'll save it. For now.

Leanne said...

Libby - thank you. As always. I need to find a place for that quote; it's beautiful!

elizabeth said...
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elizabeth said...

There was a time when I thought similarly to anon. That people could pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Regardless. (And that if they didn't, well then they weren't trying hard enough - not saying that's what anon thinks though).

Then I moved away from home. And I started reading. And I started meeting and working with people who were in those situations.

And I realized my basic problem .. you read stories about people who pull themselves up by their bootstraps and it sounds so great and inspiring and wonderful. And it is. And those stories make you think that everyone can do it if they only put their minds to it. But those stories should be seen as the rarity that they are. They should not be taken as proof that everyone can succeed if they only try hard enough - so if they aren't succeeding then clearly they aren't trying (or are lazy or are using their upbringing as a crutch or what have you ..).

It's like asking someone to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. When they don't even have boots. Or shoes.

elizabeth said...

@leanne: quote is by kahlil gibran, forgot to give him credit :)

also, based on your post, you might enjoy reading "the irresistible revolution" (shane claiborne) or "everything must change" (brian mclaren). can't remember if i've mentioned them before.

Leanne said...

"It's like asking someone to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. When they don't even have boots. Or shoes."

I love this.

Anonymous said...

I realize your points and they are valid in certain respects. I don't thing I'm naive to the fact that every person (or even most) is going to be able to pull themselves out of tough and sometimes impossible circumstances. Sometimes though, I think welfare is frequently treating the effects of societies problem whereas we should be more focused on the causes. It seems as though, and I know this is off track, that we should be more focused on helping kids in inner cities do better for themselves (charter schools, mentoring, ect) than taking care of people who either give up or are content to live a substandard live supported by taxpayers. It's unbelievable the drop out rates in large city schools, it's no wonder nothing changes when this continues to happen.

In the end, I have to say as far as health insurance (which remember, I pay for $100% out of pocket), that regulations should be put in place to control costs to make it more affordable. You have to look at the big picture though and realize why the costs are so high in the first place and correct those (fraud, malpractice, ect.) Focusing on fixing the cause rather than the effect is often much easier in the long run and cheaper. I've spent lots of time in Europe and socialist health care didn't seem to be the fix it's cracked up to be.

Jan said...

I think we can do more, on average, by helping our next door neighbor than worrying about those on the other side of the globe. We probably understand their situation more thoroughly than we can of those far far away. I confess I know more of the cultural climate here than I do in Kenya, for example. So I probably can understand much more what help people in my local area need more than in Kenya. That is why I am involved in my local government, and why I spend more time reading/keeping up on local issues than on national and international ones. Because I only have so much time : )
So perhaps a state health system could do a better job than a national one. Just as states do a better job at education than a national system.

Secondly, I expect that we help others as we can, but it is not something we expect kudos or rewards for. Which, I think, is not how most of the world operates. Self-righteousness can be such a sneaky way for the devil to operate.

Just my opinions.

Leanne said...

Jan - I'm not sure if you were calling me self-righteous for my viewpoints. I don't suppose you think that I think this is my path to heaven. Not entirely. I do, however, think that it's my purpose. Forgive me if I misread that, I've seen this term misused over and over again, and I am hoping you can clarify that.

At any rate, I don't know if socialized health care would work in the US, we've never tried it. I do know, however, that our current system doesn't work very well either. I agree that the fraud, malpractice, etc. is a huge issue, but corporate greed is another reason costs are so out of control!

AGREED on the education issues in this country. Wouldn't it be something if we could fix health care AND education?! :D :D Yes, we should be working from the bottom up. No question. Thanks for that reminder!

Leanne said...

Anon - just a quick thank you for the discussion. It's so great to have this conversation, even if you might not be who I think you are. ;) I think it's an important one, and your respectful responses, while differing, are appreciated!

Leanne said...

I had this thought, too. I think it's absolutely commendable to serve your local community! What a great way to affect change!

MindiJo said...

Wow. How did I miss this? I totally agree with anon., whoever it is. And Amy.

I don't, however, agree with Elizabeth's comment about not everybody being able to succeed and or take care of themselves. If there is a will, there is a way.

I do agree with you, Leanne. We should give. And love. Not because we want to be commended for it or because we think we'll have a place reserved in heaven for us, just simply because it's a good thing to do.

Jan said...

I guess I am thinking of MNCare, it serves/ has served a lot of Minnesotans, quite well. I know they have had to make cuts to the program and I am not familiar with these. I know that MNCare works, as we had to use it at a time in our lives due to tough circumstances. I actually was impressed with it. Now we are back on normal health insurance through Ron's work, and though we have to pay plenty, it works. I think one part of health care is that citizens use it too much- i.e. looking for a quick fix rather than maintaining good health through healthy habits.

I am not opening the other "can of worms" any can think what you want on that one.

Amy said...

The secret to fixing our education system is to decrease the socioeconomic disparity that exists between the urban poor/rural poor and the ever-decreasing middle class and upper class. How does one manage to focus and do well in school in order to pull up one's self by the bootstraps when the odds of surviving until adulthood are significantly decreased, you have an unstable home life with violence, drugs, or no adult support, and your peers end up selling drugs or in jail? It's a miracle that one graduates in such circumstances... Those of us that were not born into that life are more lucky than we realize.
If you think about it, Jesus was a socialist...

Leanne said...

Absolutely, Amy. That's why I posted the bible verses. This is not something I pulled out of thin air! I hope people who read this post took the time to read those as well...

The challenges to reforming our education and or health care systems are overwhelming. But I think if people dig deep and do what's right, we can make some progress for the good of all people.

Emily said...

I am curious if you have studied how "successful" socialized medicine is in other countries? My biggest issue with liberal opinions is that they are mostly made of "feelings" and "emotions" without seeing the effects of their good intentions. I do think most liberals do truely believe they are helping, but the effects are often not what they intend.

With socialized medicine there is no possible way to supply the need of "free" medical care. I have heard countless personal stories of Canadians needing to come to America for treatment. i.e. A Canadian man needing bypass surgery was required to wait 6 months for surgery. He chose to come to Michigan and had surgery within a week, saving his life he believes.

I know our system is not perfect, but I know in my heart it is far better than what a bureacratic government could provide for us. I frankly do not trust them with my childrens' or parents' health. I have talked to retired people and they know they will be the ones who will suffer. Do you give a 40 year old a new hip or a 85 year old one? Obvious answer.

Truthfully as a Christian I am extremely offended when I hear liberals use His name in their cause. I believe in helping our neighbor, but why does the government have to do it. If it is your cause start a charity. Open a free clinic. Donate money to a charitable hospital. Do not take the freedom away from Americans that so many soldiers have fought for.

Leanne said...

Emily - you make good points and I certainly meant no offense. I think that would be *great* if people would just do it, but they don't. If taxes were optional, we'd have no roads to drive on, of that I am sure. I don't think your ideas are irrational, just not practical!

FWIW: I think decisions based on feelings, when it's for the good of mankind, aren't harmful.

Thanks for your opinion!

Scandy said...

When I saw that there are 27 comments, I said to myself, "Don't read them. Just respond how the blog post inspired you to say."

So, I will say: "God Bless Merriam Webster. Great definition of 'liberal.'"

Rah, Leanne.

That said, I'm really curious what the first comment was to have been deleted by the author. I may or may not read all the comments...I like dialogue, but sometimes this liberal doesn't want to be liberal in listening. That's not good, but it's not uncommon, either. For either end of the spectrum.

~ Junkyard Jennifer said...

What a great conversation. (I'm catching up on your blog.)

I want to agree on so many points that each one of you has made. I don't even know where to begin though!

I know I've mentioned it before, but being self-employed and uninsured (we rely on MNCare because we can't afford to pay for insurance) I would LOVE to see some changes in the healthcare in our country! It'd be my dream to see an affordable option for those of us who'd rather pay our own way. I'm not sure exactly what those changes are yet but something has to change.

I'm one who feels that the government has far too much 'control' on things already (as you already know) and that worries me. I do, however, think that national healthcare sounds like a great idea. BUT it should be more of an option than something that everyone HAS to have. I think people should still be able to use the insurance of their choice...

I have no answers on how to make that happen. But I'm sitting on the fence as far as that goes because it goes both ways for me. I see both sides of the argument on this one.

(Being in our shoes, I do lean more toward the option of nationalized healthcare but I think it should be per state rather than on a national level, as Jan suggested. And, I don't want the government to be telling us what we can and can't do, I'd prefer they work to give us more 'options' rather than dictate our healthcare.)

I wanted to agree with Elizabeth specifically that sometimes people can't always help themselves. I love how she put it about the bootstraps and having no boots or shoes. Because it's not necessarily that they can't help themselves but sometimes they just may not have the right resources around them to help themselves...

I believe that people, given the right resources, may excel but unfortunately those resources aren't always readily available to those who need them.

Wow, this conversation gives a lot to think about! Great topic Leanne!

~ Jennifer