I’ve had a lot on my mind as we prepare for the Harvest Gathering in downtown Asheville,as we go into it I try to focus on what’s going on in the country, and in Asheville and what the biggest needs are. I’ve had some interesting conversations in the last few weeks, about the state of our nation, our failing & broken economy, politicians, society… Last week in 3 days time, I got three very different perspectives.
- Wednesday I was in inner city Chicago, visiting with friends who work day in and day out with the underprivileged on the streets of Chicago. It helps you gain perspective and reminds you of the truth when you visit a city where the very rich and very poor live side by side
- Thursday I was in a beautiful county made up primarily of farmers and business owners who work hard, do well for themselves and have been able to make a good life… by living a little bit outside of the system they are mostly removed from the troubles the rest of the world faces
- Friday I went to Kentucky, in this part of Southern Appalachia, I spent my weekend in one of the poorest counties in the country. Where people who once were miners in a company town, where left with nothing and generations later, are living in the same poverty and oppression, removed from the rest of the world… Ignorant, hopeless, backwards, incessed, often without electricity or indoor plumbing. Most people in the middle class suburban world I grew up around wouldn’t believe that places like this exist in this country
All the while I’ve been keeping close tabs on the 99% that have been busy Occupying Wallstreet, DC and elsewhere. I’ve listened to many people’s thoughts about it, just as I listened last week to good church going middle class citizens make statements about the poor that shocked and sobered me. People everywhere are sadly misinformed about the state of things in America. And even those who are good people, trying to change things, somewhere reach a line that is easier to throw a stereo type over than to cross. As Christians living in these times we cannot afford to be misinformed. If we are ignorantly making political proclamations, bashing those who live off welfare, and saying God helps those who help themselves. We are ignoring what is supposed to be the basis of our walk. Would Jesus be turning a blind eye? Or would the very people and poverty we are overlooking be exactly the mission field and possibly part of the “all the world” that he mentions we are supposed to be going into? Where would he be going right now?
For my friends and family with good intentions but who don’t understand, let me enlighten you about a few important facts of life.
First about Homelessness: just because someone is homeless, does not mean they are a bum. The homeless in this country is now made up of many formerly middle class families that lost their home & lifestyle overnight… Often these families still have two parents that are trying to work and raise their family while living in a car, on the street or between shelters. There’s so much more but these are some basics
Second while all of this Occupying is not really about just homelessness, people have lost their homes, but it’s about corporations and greed and the rich (the 1%) growing richer while the poor grow poorer. It’s working people fighting for a better life, fighting for a chance to earn a living, to have fair wages, etc, to be able to have a good life, all the things America is supposed to be about. The 99% is not just made up of the poor, it’s people taking a stand, speaking up to try to change something. Now I don’t necessarily agree with everything they’re all doing and saying. But I do know that they’re made up of a lot of people that are hopeless. The common people that are struggling around us…. It’s the hurting world around us. They’re a voice right now that we should be paying attention to. Maybe this stand they’re taking will get the attention of the church, while they’re busy trying to change the world and the government, lets start looking at how we should be changing the world.
Just like any trend, it would be exciting to go join them and sit or stand beside them, maybe that’s where Jesus would be, passing out sandwiches, blankets and building relationship. I think He would. But, what I’m more worried about is what people are going to do after they’re through occupying… It may not change anything and may pass quickly. But now that we’ve seen the people begging for change and hope, just like I’d like to see them leave wall street and go home and start trying to make the change they want in little ways day to day, not just once in Washington or New York, shouldn’t we also change our lifestyles… Not just in word, on the internet or in a protest or campaign, but get to work looking for our chances to make change in what’s around us?
I challenge my fellow disciples, activists, Christians… those that are truly trying to follow Christ. Those that are doing alright for themselves and those that aren’t… make a change around you. You are surrounded by a 99% that has lost their hope, their security, their future. Our world right now is begging for change, reform, revolution, hope… We have it, we know it, we can be this. And if we’re honest, this is our calling and should be our focus. Stop fighting little battles or ignoring them. Stop joining causes or funding them. Be something real. Be hands and feet. Be a church.
These are the types of stories we hear all over the country, and it’s who we try to dedicate our lives to reaching out to day to day and thru events like The Harvest Gathering
We are the 99 percent. We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are suffering from environmental pollution. We are working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we’re working at all. We are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything. We are the 99 percent.
I am a 38 year old married father of three. My wife and I cannot afford daycare while our children are young, so we decided to have her take a hiatus from teaching until the kids are in school. In order for my wife to keep her teaching license, she is required to continue her education. $85k now in debt from student loans alone, she cannot find a teaching position because it’s more important to bail out banks and destroy/build middle eastern countries than it is to educate our children.I work 80+ hours a week just to try to keep up with the workload handed to me in fear of a layoff. I am a top performer (at the expense of my family and my health), but haven’t seen a raise in 5 years. My company posts record profits every quarter. My company just cut my pay 20% and increased my health insurance costs 20%, all while doubling my responsibility – and they keep giving big huge bonuses and golden parachutes to CEOs that ‘best shore’ employees, cut pay, set unrealistic expectations and dramatically increase workloads…All to appease Wall Street!
No concern for long term health of the company or the morale inside…Management by the quarter.At the pace I’m going right now, it’s not likely I will live to see retirement. The cost of living is through the roof, the crushing debt, the corporation playing with my pay every quarter and constant looming threat of being laid off has caused us to burn completely through our savings and our HALVED retirement accounts to keep things going.
We are considered ‘lucky ones’ because we haven’t lost everything…yet. But things are fish-tailing wildly and we could lose it all at any moment.
I am not a religious person, but I do believe that ‘I am my brother’s keeper’. I have given to those in need around me until it hurts, with the expectation that things would soon turn around…But they haven’t…And I’ve exhausted my resources.
I want the 1% to ask themselves: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
We are the 99% – And the torches are lit!
This is why I am definitely part of the 99%, but this is not why I am occupying. I am occupying for the future well-beings of everyone, for the clarity and importance of their places in the world.
I work three jobs, none of which provide us with health insurance. My wife’s insurance is cobra’d, but that means that all we can provide for me is disaster coverage ($2,500 deductible, which means I never go to the doctor, even when I know I need to). My son’s insurance is covered by Medicaid, thank God. We also get help through W.I.C. so he’s got plenty to eat. I consider my self one of the lucky ones because we have a little in savings and no major debt (G.I. Bill for me, scholarships for my wife). But we are only one paycheck from disaster: savings gone in a month, unable to pay rent, and then where would we be? Don’t listen to the pundits who dismiss us and the political right who demonize us. I—we—are the 99%!
My parents thought they could pay for my education. I did not enter school knowing I would owe everything to Sallie Mae until at least 2025. Still, I pay my loans, my mortgage and my bills. However, I know I am an illness, a layoff or an accident away from losing everything. At work I see the resources drying up, and homeless families with little hope of getting back on their feet. Meanwhile, those that have power and influence to change and help things in this country are sipping champagne from their balconies laughing at the struggles of the 99%.
- 21 year old daughter of two (veteran) parents, both laid off. I work three jobs on top of being a full-time student. I was:
– 13 when the bank foreclosed my childhood home
-14 when my father filed for bankruptcy
-16 when I became entirely self-sufficient
At 22, I’ll graduate and lose the only health insurance I’ve ever had, plus $50,000+ in student loans that were necessary for me to survive while getting an education. The only thing I’ve ever known is a broken system.
I am the 99%. My parents are both the 99% percent. My sister, a college graduate with no career prospects, is the 99% percent. We have spent our lives working blue collar jobs, with the promise of education to set us free. They failed my parents, and now they are failing me. End the greed.
- I will be nineteen-years-old in November. I began working a full-time job when I was fourteen. I graduated from high school with a 3.8 GPA when I was sixteen. That same year, I started attending college, majoring in English Literature and my passion, photography. While in college, I began working as a legal assistant to pay not only for college, but for myself, as my father, in spite of making 90k plus per year thought I should “learn what it is like to support [myself].” Thanks dad. When my boss decided I was too costly at $11/hour, I was forced either to (a) quit school indefinitely and find a full-time job or (b) move over 1000 miles away from my home to live with a man who offered free rent and meals so I could continue going to school. At a different kind of price.
At least I have that and a 4.0 in college.
I am the 99%