I've had these song lyrics stuck in my head the last few days.
"Born sinner, the opposite of a winner. Remember when I used to eat WIC cheese for dinner." - Thi'sl
Some of you may be familiar with my story or you may have read a previous post I wrote to my oldest daughter Telijah. God allowed me to endure some difficult years that have given me a window into the struggles of some of the most disadvantaged in our communities. The song lyrics above have been stuck in my head because I, too, remember eating WIC cheese for dinner.
I've been working through some tough emotions these last few days after learning that our current administration made a move to cut funding for the Community Development Block Grant. This grant funds programs like WIC (supplemental nutrition for pregnant women, infants and children), Meals on Wheels, school nutrition programs and after-school care. Hopefully you'll hear my heart and know I'm not looking to enter into the current social media feud over politics. I am simply hoping this post might compel my Christian friends to action and perhaps serve as a way to help my friends who have never had need of programs like WIC or welfare to put a face on this issue. My face.
As a young single-mother, I fought to break free from the bondage of the welfare system. This meant working over 40 hours weekly at a job that didn't pay a living wage. It meant refusing to take a social worker's advice to quit my job and return to full public assistance when I couldn't pay my heating bill. It meant depending on help from others - like a supervisor who generously helped me pay for childcare or a friend who paid to have my car fixed when the heater core went bad in the dead of winter. It also meant taking advantage of programs like WIC to purchase healthy foods when I couldn't afford to buy any without the food stamps I once depended on. There were many nights that those WIC cheese sandwiches kept us from going to bed hungry.
I understand the need to regulate and even cut government spending and I'm fully in agreement with that. I believe our welfare system is a broken system in desperate need of reform. I also believe that poverty and aging are complex issues that can't be fixed by a government or grants. However, cutting funding to these programs would be detrimental to individuals and families in our communities who need help the most. This Block Grant serves as a safety net and without it our impoverished and elderly neighbors are left to free-fall if nothing is done in its place.
As a Christian, I don't place my hope in our government to care for the impoverished and elderly. Because of passages like Proverbs 31:8-9, Isaiah 1:17 and Luke 10:25-37, I believe followers of Jesus Christ have a call to do more than pay taxes and show up at church on Sunday. Jesus asks us to mimic what He modeled in the Incarnation by getting personally involved in the lives of others. That doesn't mean He's calling us to die, but He is calling us to get involved. Jesus calls His followers to personally sacrifice for the flourishing of others. Our pastor says this is the definition of love.
It feels as if we have come to a crossroads of sorts. If these families and individuals - who Jesus describes as our neighbors - may be left without food and vital support then perhaps this is an opportunity for us. I don't pretend to have all the answers, but I do want to encourage us to spend time in prayer asking God what He's calling each of us to do to see our neighbors flourish. Some of these neighbors will be in our churches and thankfully we can surround them with support within that family. However, others will be in our communities without the support of a church family. Who will catch them if their safety-net is removed?
Perhaps God will call you to rally around your neighbors by donating to some of these groups who will be losing their funding. Maybe He will ask you to find ways to individually support people you know who will be affected. Perhaps He will even ask you to lead the charge in your church or community. I have had the privilege of seeing our church rally around specific areas of need in our city like young families, foster care and adoption and supporting public schools. It's a beautiful thing to see the local expression of the church coming together the way God intended.
I've had the honor of a front-row seat to see a community unite in various ways to support teenage mothers and their children. I've also seen collective support across our country for ministries working to fight against human trafficking, homelessness and many other great causes. It is my prayer that in a similar manner, Christ's church in our country will come together to care for those who will find themselves in need if this Block Grant is cut. This is a great opportunity to love our neighbors. May we rise to the challenge.