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Charles M Blow: Remembering the Poor on Christmas

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is a column I strongly urge people here to read.

It is subtitled “It’s easy to forget those left behind in a strong economy.”

Blow writes powerfully about his own childhood as the youngest of 3 sons raised without his father after his mother ended her marriage to his philandering father, and  moved into a house with his grandparents and a great-uncle who needed caregiving, which his mother provided.

You should read the biographical material, which I will not here recapitulate.

At the end of the biographical material, Blow offers these two paragraphs:

This Christmas, please remember the people like my family: the poor, the people whose lives took a turn, those starting over, the fractured families, those working hard but not quite getting ahead.

It can be tempting in a strong economy like this one with such a low unemployment rate to overlook the poor. It can be easy in the consumer craze of Christmas to forget when we are splurging on gifts that there are people without food or medicine.

He follows that with statistics on poverty, which you can read in his column.  Again, I will not recapitulate those either, but I will note the clear racial disparities one will see in the data.

Blow closes with these two paragraphs:

This is one reason that I was heartened to hear candidates at Thursday’s debate specifically invoking and remembering the poor. As Pete Buttigieg put it, “I know you’re only ever supposed to say middle class and not poor in politics, but we’ve got to talk about poverty in this country.”

Yes we do, and there is no better time to remember the poor than on Christmas.

The biographical material in the column includes a reference to Santa Claus, viewed by so many as the bringer of gifts. That view is based in reality:  St. Nicholas of Myra  was a 4th Century Greek bishop in Asia Minor (Myra is the moern ay Turkish city of Demre) who became famous for his giving of secret gifts to poor families. most notably according to legend dropping money at a house so that a father had a dowry for his three daughters and did not have to sell them into prostitution.   Some historians believe St. Nicholas attended the first great church council in Nicea, presided over by the Emperor Constantine.  His relics (remains) got scattered, with most winding up in Bari in Italy for a long time —   Nicholas/Nicolas is considered the patron saint of many different groups, including sailors, merchants, repentant thieves, pawnbrokers, prostitutes, and children.

Nicholas serves as a model for giving of one’s wealth SECRETLY to those in need.  Here I note that while I agree with Blow that those of us who can should give as we are able to help those less fortunate, I am also guided by two other statements.  The first is fromj Matthew 25, where Jesus tells his disciples that whatever you do to these the least of the brethren you do also to him.  I heard those words last week the day before my surgery, because they are in the Gospel  proclaimed on gthe day of venerating St. John deMatha, the priest who founded the order of the Most Holy Trinity and the Captives, which founded the school at which I teach, and it was his feast day.

The other set of words are by Jubert Humphrey, at the dedication of what is now the HHS Buildinjg named after him and are words I often repeat here:

It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.

As individuals we have a moral responsibility to alleviate suffering where we can, and we should not discriminate based on things like race or religion or even the flawed judgment previously shown by those in need.

But I agree with Humphrey that it is a moral test of any government, one that far too often our opwn government — and society — fails.  It is an issue that should be as dominant as any in our political discourse.

In the meantime, I hope we can take to heart the words Blow offers, which will I repeat as I end this piece:

As Pete Buttigieg put it, “I know you’re only ever supposed to say middle class and not poor in politics, but we’ve got to talk about poverty in this country.”

Yes we do, and there is no better time to remember the poor than on Christmas.

However you celebrate this season, I hope you take those words to heart.


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