'Annus horribilis'

In a year when Windsor Castle burned and her family was breaking up, Queen Elizabeth II bemoaned her “annus horrilibis.” The year 2011 is shaping up to be mine.

My problems have piled up so fast that I have reached the point where I would rather avoid emails or phone calls which ask, “How are you doing?” The debilitating act of complaining can erode the spirit, but, then, I’ve never really had that much to complain about. Until now.

So, without going into details – or additional details – about my woes, I’d like to mention some life lessons, which have helped me put them in perspective.

THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS CHRIST – Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus championed the meek and the poor. There are some 700 mentions of the poor in the New Testament, more than any other subject., and 407 were spoken by Jesus.

MARIE – When I was a young woman my Sunday School class got involved with the county welfare department in a project which took us into a world of backwoods Mississippi poverty we could never have imagined. A friend and I took as our “project” Marie. I do not know if our efforts eventually helped Marie and her children, but they taught us about the downward spiraling cycle of ignorance and hopelessness.

THOSE STRANDED BY KATRINA – For five days, I sat in the comfort of my home and watched in horror those stranded in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, asking myself, “How can this be happening in America?”

DOROTHEA LANGE’S “MIGRANT MOTHER” – In 1979, I viewed the Dorothea Lange collection of photos made during The Great Depression. (See Library of Congress collection HERE.) I stood for a long time and looked into the face of Lange’s “Migrant Mother” (shown above) until her despair burned into my soul.

JOHN STEINBECK’S “THE GRAPES OF WRATH” – Now, having just listened to Steinbeck’s desperate saga of the Joad family, I add this reminder of what poverty is and that it really does happen in America. While a fictional family, the reality of the Joads comes alive in Lange’s photographic record. Steinbeck insisted a complete copy of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” be printed in the first edition of his book – the anthem from which his title came.

This post was to have ended here, but I received a forwarded email mocking so-called “street people.” More and more prevalent in the news are expressions of disdain for those less fortunate. The belief that their lot in life is the result of laziness should stir our wrath.

Then, I noted this recent editorial in The New York Times:

“The New Resentment of the Poor” points out that Republican candidates and leaders are painting a picture of America's working poor that is “factually wrong, economically wrong and morally wrong.” Don’t let lies prevail, when a few minutes of reading will equip you with facts. READ THE EDITORIAL

There really are haves and have nots in this country – those who have compassion for the less fortunate and those who apparently have none.

Before you leave this page, look once more upon the face of the Migrant Mother. Consolation for our own petty problems is written there.


Tiny with a heavy heart said...

When Tiny was growing up the constant mantra to complaints was, "If you think you have it hard, look around and you will find people in worse shape than you are." That is a stark reality, an undisputable truth!

Tiny could write many stories concerning this subject and how her parents were always helping those less fortunate when even the church would not help those in need; yet, wanted your tithe every time the collection plate was passed around.

She sees and hears the same thing playing out in her own community today as well as on the world stage.

Galations 8:8 "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." How is this working in your community? In your church? In our own political arena?

Excellent post BJ.

Lynn said...

These are undeniable truths, BJ. Thank you for reminding us that we don't really have it so bad.
I wrote a piece last fall on the growing homeless population on the Miss. Gulf Coast. It was an eye opener. I went to a shelter and to a soup kitchen and talked to people. There are many reasons for being homeless. The homeless fall into different categories. There are some who are bums (what they used to call hobos) and like living in the woods, but there are many who are trying desperately to improve their situations.
I love the photo you posted. It's haunting.

Papamoka said...

I'm sending you hugs and love BJ. Always know that you are loved and that my friend is the key to happiness. I miss our email chats.

Bill Sumrall said...

Sorry about your bad year and hope it gets better. I'm glad you spotted the trend in bashing poor folks -- I read where Michele Bachmann apparently wants to get rid of the federal minimum wage. These Republicans certainly seem clueless.

B.J. said...

Tiny: You have made so many good points about growing up on a farm and being taught values. You are right about one thing: if the poor nned help they can always turn to the poor, a point made in Steinbeck’s book.

Lynn: Thanks for sharing about your article on the homeless. Oprah Winfrey once said most Americans are one paycheck away from being homeless. We cannot even imagine.

Papamoka: Hugs back at you! So good to hear from you and hoping all is well with you, your girls and grandbaby Hazel Marie. You can expect an email!

Bill: Clueless is a good description. I hope everyone read the NYT editorial. Bachmann et al are claiming that more than 50 percent of Americans pay no taxes, when in reality it’s 14 perent. And, of course, some 1,400 millionaires paid no taxes in 2010, according to tax records. Republicans are also a funny lot. They won't admit Obama cut taxes for low- and middle-income folks, but now they want to do away with his tax cuts. Sigh.

Leslie Parsley said...

The growing disdain for the poor is proof that when you tell a lie often enough . . . The Republicans lie and lie and the ignorant come to believe the lies. The irony is, of course, being ignorant and being poor are often synonymous, at least until recently.

bbj said...

Your postings are always right on target, BJ. I'm sure I'm the last in this group to read Jeannette Walls's "The Glass Castle," but if any of you haven't read it, DO. The homeless (for whatever reason) are all around us, and we don't have a clue.

B.J. said...

Leslie: It is bewildering that the people in this country who need Democrtic policies and programs the most vote Republican. We can talk about crumbling infrastructure, but the biggest problem in this country, in my opinion, is a crumbling public education system.

bbj: They are all around us. Anderson’s homelss live under a viaduct downtown near the Yellow Cab office. The cab drivers have told me they are numerous and are there come rain or shine or sleet. There are some shelters which feed them regularly and help them in extreme weather, including the Haven of Rest here.

While it is fiction, John Grisham’s “The Street Lawyer” gives a very real description of their plight. Having just listened to all of Grisham’s books, I praise the man as a modern-day muckraker who can stand proud beside Theodore Dreiser, Upton Sinclair, Frank Norris, Lincoln Steffens, Jack London and so many other progressive writers at the beginning of the 20th Century.