Last week, we began to talk about the people who live on the streets. The picture we painted about street people someday becoming a nation by themselves and implementing street laws sounded scary. But it is a reality we cannot ignore.
We even foretold the possibility of them raising a subculture and rising up against the system that created it. That also is frightening but real.
The politics of it stretches across a number of governmental organisations and finally rests on the doorsteps of the interior and security ministries.
But politics aside, the people on the streets and their vulnerability put us all to the test. The test is how to walk the tight rope of building a society where the inhabitants benefit from the wealth of the nation.
By extension, these people are our kinsfolks, for we are each other’s keepers. That is a highly debatable statement, I know, but throughout the world, society has grappled with how to handle those who live on the downside of life.
They are often neglected, maltreated, abused, and looked down upon. We may feel that we did not cause their plight so they are not our responsibility but we are sadly mistaken if we think like that.
God Almighty, to whom we owe our very life, gave this rather insightful instruction: "When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God" (Leviticus 23:22).
That last statement, “I am the Lord your God” gives credence to why that instruction should be obeyed: God is sovereign and his instructions are sacred.
Here is another instruction: “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor in any of your towns . . . you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother” (Deuteronomy 15:7).
I even saw a deeper instruction—“Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honours him” (Proverbs 14:31).
Moreover, God says, "He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing" (Deuteronomy 10:18).
If you are tempted to rubbish such poignant statements, just remember that God is able to withhold rain for a couple of years and famine can descend on us mercilessly. Or consider the reality of life that says no condition is permanent.
When we are comfortable and the vulnerable are not, we reduce our humanity to cruelty. When they are hungry and we are well fed, we become inhuman. When they are naked and we are overclothed, we lie about being well to do. For, the sages say, “You cannot be fully clothed if your neighbour is half-naked, just as you cannot be truly satisfied when your colleagues are starving!”
Vulnerability goes beyond street people. It is said that children, pregnant women, elderly people, the sick, and even the lonely are vulnerable.
Consequently, we are all vulnerable. We may have a lot of food, clothes, and shelter, but do we also have a lot of good health and good sleep?
In our discourse last week, we revealed that certain prominent, well-connected personalities of this country trace their roots to street life.
That revelation gives us a new perspective on the vulnerable—they are as human as we are and they can rise above their circumstances if helped.
We need not look down on the vulnerable as a social burden. For, says Jesse Jackson, "the only time you should look down at someone is when you are helping them up."
We say the vulnerable are beggars who should be ignored, but aren’t we all beggars? Our begging may be sophisticated, but it is begging nevertheless—fundraising, development partnership, support, and appeal. I deliberately left out prayer!
Why did God allow his only begotten Son to be born in a manger with the sheep? Consider his low upbringing, humility, association with the lowly.
Even though wealthy he became poor for our sakes, so that through his poverty we may become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). How poor and vulnerable we are if we don’t know him!
All I’m driving at is that vulnerable people need our support, our help, our attention, our concern.
Bless the hearts of individuals and organisations that are reaching out to the vulnerable in society.