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This past week, I found myself at 7Hills in Fayetteville. Another day I was at the VA Hospital. Then I was at a rehabilitation facility. There I spent time talking with a police officer. He had survived being shot and was going through therapy.

The VA Hospital was festive, filled with men sporting colorful shirts displaying U.S. flags. The aroma of popcorn caught my attention. Of course, it was the day before July Fourth, so why not? Hanging in my closet are several shirts decorated with American flags. I didn't realize I was such a patriot. I accumulated them over many Independence Days. I've never served in the armed forces, but I'm told I carry myself like an officer. In God's kingdom, I am.

The wounded police officer was a veteran, too. I met his wife and parents. His mom wore a colorful U.S. flag shirt emblazoned with an eagle. His dad, a man of sparse words, wore olive-green military-style clothing. I learned everybody in their family had served as soldiers.

It's true that a certain percentage of homeless people are veterans. Some suffer from PTSD. Others have addiction issues. Some can't assimilate back into society after experiencing combat. I was surprised at how many homeless people were at 7Hills when I was there -- I guessed maybe a hundred. They seemed to share camaraderie. They were a community, helping each other.

That 7Hills location didn't provide lodging -- just a hot meal at noon, and only on certain days. I helped transport one man from there who was in a wheelchair. It was hard to imagine life on the streets while disabled, but that was his lot. Now he has a roof over his head.

In Fayetteville, as in many cities, it is common to see homeless people at intersections. I admit I'm burned out by beggars. The fancy word is "inured." I have pity fatigue. I don't have the power to help them all. Nor can I figure out how so many people can be disconnected from family so as to end up pleading for help. I saw one lady, likely a grandmother, holding up a hand-lettered sign "Yes, I am embarrassed," it read.

Back in the days of the Great Depression, scenes played out on a massive scale as I've described in miniature. The movie, The Grapes of Wrath, vividly portrayed their hardships, as well as the harshness of their treatment. They were just trying to survive.

When my wife and I lived in South Africa, we saw things every day on a scale larger than the small scenes I've described here. We were in Johannesburg, a prosperous city. Yet, at every intersection, beggars, including children, were waiting for you to crack the window just a bit. The same crowds waited at the entrance to malls or grocery stores. Some beggars weren't polite. Thieves were mixed in the throngs. Police with shotguns and batons were ready to act harshly to protect shoppers.

"The poor you have with you always," Jesus said. Charity is always needed. But what creates poverty? How do you cure it? The difficult truth is there is no quick fix. It takes a generation to escape poverty. The best cure for poverty is an industrious human family, an invention by the genius of God. The home is societal infrastructure. It saves and raises children. Government can't replace it. But it can destroy it.

• • •

Ron Wood is a writer and minister. Email him at wood.stone.ron@gmail.com or visit www.touchedbygrace.org. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

Editorial on 07/11/2018

Print Headline: Remember the poor in our country

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