They Are Weak But…

In a conversation at our table at a recent community meal for the homeless and needy, we talked about a guy who came to an earlier meal drunk and disorderly and was consequently banned from the bus temporarily. Someone remarked that we have to realize that people have weaknesses.

For sure, we all have weaknesses. It’s just a matter of what kind and to what degree.

We need to reach out to help people who become slaves to alcohol or other substances, to food, material things, romantic relationships and so on. Throughout history, humans have worshipped false gods, idols. A woman said of her then boyfriend that he thinks he can find the answer to problems in the bottle.

Today, drug abuse has become an epidemic! In lower Bucks County, PA, I know more than a dozen people who have a drug problem. And a few who abuse alcohol.

Why? “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” -2nd Corinthians 4:4

I remember an interview years ago with a minister who reached out to gangs and troubled youths  to try to resolve problems. The interviewer asked him what he would do before he could help them change – if a group of thugs closed in on him in an alley. “Then I would put on my P.F. Flyers and run,” he quipped.

The point is that when people engage in destructive, anti-social behavior, the only recourse is to restrain that behavior. Actions have consequences, and when other people are offended or hurt by someone’s behavior, justice demands that they answer for their actions.

But offenders need to have an opportunity to help themselves and work on resolving their problems, overcoming their weaknesses. A victim of someone with a weakness told me that if he were ever going to file a complaint, he would insist to the authorities that the offender be offered treatment in lieu of a fine or other punishment.

I once had a difference of opinion with a law enforcement ranger at a Pennsylvania State Park where I worked about crime. The ranger’s take was that once someone got into the criminal system, he automatically became a career criminal. That someone who enters the criminal system is a hopeless case, trapped in a pattern of sin and criminality was a prevailing view held in the prison system more than 150 years ago, and to some extent today. To counter that view, I cited the case of the short story writer known as O. Henry, who was sentenced to five years in jail for embezzlement. In jail, O. Henry spent his time doing constructive things, including writing. He was released after three years for good behavior and then continued to be a productive, law abiding member of society.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O._Henry

“He was being punished!”, the ranger snapped. He then Augustly said that my view doesn’t agree with the state of Pennsylvania. That didn’t convince me. I don’t subscribe to the view that just because the state decrees something, like King Ozymandias, it doesn’t mean it’s so. The state is not infallible. It is not God!  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ozymandias

I believe that people can be restored, their weaknesses overcome. The Bible abounds with examples of people God strengthened, made right. You should read it sometime. The problem with our culture today is that we took God out of the picture.

People can change. But they have to be willing to work on their weaknesses. We should at least offer help. As Lord Alfred Hayes used to say on World Federation Wrestling when he promoted an aftershave that women like men to wear, “the rest is up to you.”

No matter how far you’ve fallen, God can restore you.

“And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you.” -Joel 2:25

The Damage Undone

“I’ve seen the needle
and the damage done
A little part of it in everyone
But every junkie’s
like a settin’ sun.”

–lyrics from Neil Young’s The Needle and the Damage Done

Neil wrote this song about two close friends who had heroin addictions. They died after the song was recorded. The sun went down on his friends. Heroin addiction, like other addictions, left unchecked, is a death sentence.

This ballad is a warning for those who engage in destructive behavior such as using heroin. There is a little part of destructive behavior in everyone.

A drug addict once told me that he wished he hadn’t engaged in the behavior that put him in the sorry state he was in.  Although life is not a video game, where you can erase everything you’ve done and start over, you can, with God’s help, start fresh.

The book of Lamentations records the story of Jerusalem ravaged by war. The Israelites were run out of  town and were oppressed after having turned away from God. “Those who pursue us are at our heals; we are weary and find no rest.” Sounds like the state of the homeless in Bucks County, PA.

The prophet Jeremiah reluctantly called on God to intervene. “Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old. Unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure,” he lamented. But despite the Israelites messing up, God answered prayer and returned the exiles to Jerusalem.

No matter how much we mess up, if we come to God and trust in Him he will have mercy on us and will restore our ruined lives. After turning away from God, my life spun out of control and I was in a downward spiral. I suffered greatly, hurting myself and loved ones. The anxiety and depression I had suffered from but kept under control got out of control.

God restored me, pulled me up out of the pit after I returned to God.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 18 percent of adults in America suffer from some form of anxiety related disorder. For the Christian, there should be an inverse relationship between such afflictions and their faith. The more you have faith, the less you are afflicted with such ailments. One Christian sister told me that if you pray, you don’t worry. If you worry, then you don’t pray.

“[Thou], which hast shewed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth.”

–Psalms 71:20

Bad Moon Arising

“I see the bad moon arising. I see trouble on the way. I see earthquakes and lightnin’. I see those bad times today.

Don’t go around tonight, Well it’s bound to take your life, There’s a bad moon on the rise.

I hear hurricanes a blowing. I know the end is coming soon. I fear rivers over flowing. I hear the voice of rage and ruin.”

Bad Moon Arising, Credence Clearwater Revival

“We all have baggage,” said a former homeless guy in lower Bucks County, PA. Recognizing you have a problem is the first step in getting your act together. When he was homeless, he learned how to deal with his baggage, and as a result was able to improve conditions for himself and fellow homeless.

If left unchecked, our “baggage”, our addictions, anti-social behavior and other problems, can lead to destruction. I know, I’ve been there. I also know that it isn’t too late. It wasn’t in my case.

And Carol King’s thesis “it’s too late, baby it’s too late…” doesn’t apply to my homeless friend who is getting treatment for alcoholism. He fell down, but he is not out. People who have been there before are helping him help himself.

He was one of the clowns who caused the homeless to be banned for a time from the Levittown Veteran’s Memorial when they were drunk and disorderly. The others involved have continued their destructive behavior.

The homeless don’t have to be that way, just because they are homeless. People have choices.

My friend is starting to fully realize that he can’t make it on his own. I occasionally remind him that there’s no such thing as the Lone Ranger Christian. He is on the right path and has made the right choice. Some of us have been encouraging him, despite his occasional urge to think he’s strong enough to leave the nest, to stay on the right track.

This time of year, with all the crass materialism static from the money grubbers who hijacked Christmas (they are the real Grinch who stole Christmas) to use it as a means to their ends, it’s important to know the real reason for the season.

What’s it’s all about, Alfie, is taking to heart God’s sacrifice for sinners and showing concern, compassion for others, especially the less fortunate. And it’s just not about material things. Some people are down spirited, especially this time of year.

It’s been said that depression is high during the Christmas season. A lot of it has to do with the emptiness of materialism and people feeling like nobody cares. The Christmas hype just doesn’t cut it!

Instead of envy, pettiness and fighting, people need to help and edify one another. At a community meal for the homeless and those in need, someone at my table questioned why the homeless are bickering with one another when they could be working together. I agree.

Greed, which runs rampant this time of year, alienates people and causes problems.

Compare Frank Norris’s McTeaque, about the social problems that resulted from the greed of the Gold Rush era, with John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, the novel about how a homeless family worked with others in their plight. In McTeaque, greed caused contention between individuals, just as does some of today’s homeless people who want all the booze or cigarettes.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McTeague

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Grapes_of_Wrath

Gluttony is a form of greed that causes problems. After I lost my house, I was invited to live rent free in a house in exchange for taking handicapped people to their doctor’s appointments and shopping and doing various chores around the property. One of them incessantly demanded I pick up monster drinks and other small items for her, in addition to weekly shopping.

A showdown came two days after our weekly shopping, which included picking up a few pounds of lunch meat for two people. The glutton wanted me to take them shopping again because they pigged out and finished the lunch meat in two days! I put my foot down and said “no.” There was other food in the house, but they demanded their lunch meat.

The glutton told me her father-in-law, who owns the house, would pick up the lunch meat. Shortly thereafter, after I schlepped many bags of food into the house after weekly shopping, the old man, a retired Brown Shirt with the United Auto Workers Union, told me I wasn’t shopping for his son and daughter-in-law as agreed and demanded I “get out and take your stuff, before I throw it out!” This guy is Jeff Dunham’s Walter on steroids!

In the Steinbeck novel, people worked together as a team in order to survive their ordeal.

When I first started hanging around the homeless about 1 1/2 years ago, they helped one another — with food and shelter, and schooled them where they could go for assistance and were there for moral support.

One free walk in program I’d recommend, which has helped me get rid of my baggage that weighs me down is the 12 steps journey, held Tuesday evenings in Levittown and Saturday nights in Newtown. http://www.12stepjourney.com/ See schedule on link.

All people matter, including the homeless. When the bad moon rises over the homeless, don’t moon them but encourage them to improve themselves. I’d encourage everyone to dump bad baggage.