“What do you need?”

October 14, 2008

I listen to a lot of NPR now.  The radio’s usually tuned to WBEZ while I commute from home to school to home to work and back.  I’m discovering a lot more about politics, economics, and the like (albeit–as my dad likes to remind me–through a public radio lens).

This morning a feature caught my attention.  In the midst of news and commentary about yesterday’s upsurge in the Dow and speculation about Bush’s impending announcement of the govt’s taking stakes in commercial banks, a two-minute piece about the effects of the economic downturn in a hard-bitten California desert community really stood out.

The piece sketched the life of the working poor and out-of-work community through the first-person narration of an occasional commentator whose name escapes me.  She echoed her neighbors complaints about outrageous gas prices and the difficulties of making a minimum wage paycheck stretch for a week’s worth of food.  She told the story of her own escape from the welfare system only to brought back into through the last months’ events.  At one point she observed that people in the town could very well be suspicious of one another, defensively protecting what little they’ve managed to scrape together.  But instead, they plainly ask one another, “What do you need?”  “Arrogance,” she said, “gets burned off in the desert town’s 109-degree heat.”

Our churches need to show this same plain, simple-minded humility, especially (though not by any means exclusively) in the face of the financial difficulties facing the majority of people in the world right now.  Instead of ostentatiously clanging our charitable contributions into the offering plate–drawing attention to ourselves–we need to take deep into our hearts our common plight:  we are each one of us somehow enmeshed in this death system; even if we don’t feel its toxic effects at this moment, our time is coming.  We need to turn to one another, asking, “What do you need?”  We must seek an interim ethic of survival, of getting-by while we daily pray Come, Lord Jesus.