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Who has the need of help from me?

Nearly every day on my walk from my car to my office, I come across at least one homeless person.  This is a very difficult thing for me.  If I had unlimited resources, I would offer each one of them a bed in my house and a place at my table.  But I can't.  And it is difficult for me to make that realization.  To see someone who is without even the basic necessities of life and to acknowledge that there is only very little that I can do to help is painful.

I have been very privileged in life.  In fact, it could even be said that I've been spoon-fed my whole life.  My parents raised me well.  They provided for all of my needs, from birth to adulthood.  They paid for my shelter, food, and clothing.  They paid for my entertainment.  They gave me a loving environment in which to mature from childhood to adulthood.  They paid for my LDS mission trip to Japan.  The federal government paid for my undergraduate college experience (it's a little more complicated than that--I got a full-ride for my first year, a pell grant for two years, and a loan for my senior year).  As a graduate student, the math department has paid my tuition for me and has given me a stipend in return for me teaching for them.

My life has been easy, my nearly every applicable standard of measure.  I haven't had to go without food.  There were times when my parents were having financial difficulty, while my father was between jobs, but they always provided for us and did an excellent job at not making their financial burdens a burden on us.  I haven't ever had much debt, aside from my one student loan (which was only a few thousand dollars) and my home mortgage (which also isn't very high).  I have progressed with great ease from one stage in life to the next.  I had no great difficulty being accepted to BYU for my undergraduate degree, and I had no trouble being accepted to UTK for my graduate degree.  I have been given much opportunity to succeed in life--much more than some other people have had.

When I see someone whom society has failed, such as homeless people, I can't help but wonder what the difference is between us.  Perhaps their parents died while they were in childhood, and no one was there to take care of them.  Perhaps they made some poor choices in their younger years, and ended up being labeled criminals and were therefore not wanted when applying for work later on.  Perhaps they were wronged in some way.  Perhaps they brought it upon themselves in some way.  But, the point is that at this moment, they do not have the same opportunity I have.  I can go home and sleep in a bed.  They have no home, and might not have a bed to sleep in.

Then, I ask myself, what change can be wrought in society to end this kind of suffering?  What can be done to give better opportunity to those who are downtrodden?  In particular, what can I do?  In what way can I best be of service to those who have no food to eat or no shelter overhead?  Does the answer lie in government programs?  I don't know.  But, I do know that I have seen government programs benefit many people in my personal life.  Does the answer lie in churches?  I have seen many churches do many good things.  I have also seen many church leaders who are very selfish and only give to the poor to maintain a righteous image.  How about food banks and homeless shelters?  I think these are wonderful institutions, and perhaps we need more of these.  I've volunteered at my local food bank, and that feels nice.

It grieves me to think that at the moment, there isn't much that I can do.  I really am making just enough money to live off at the moment.  I don't have thousands of dollars to spare on the poor.  One question I often ask myself is, if I did have that much to spare, would I?  Or would I buy a nicer home and more toys to play with?  I hope that I would give it to those less fortunate.  I would like to think that if I had excess money, I would use it to help other people have opportunities that I have been given.

This is one major reason why I really like the ideas that Jill Stein put forth in her "Green New Deal".  I think that all people do deserve the same opportunities.  I had the opportunity to go to college, so I think everyone should.  (I don't think that everyone should go to college--it's not for everyone, just the same way painting isn't for everyone.  I just feel that everyone should have the opportunity.)  I think that everyone should have the opportunity to get a job and be gainfully employed, or to make their own job and employ others.

I'm in the process of applying for jobs, since I expect to graduate this Spring.  Any job that I get will pay considerably more than I am currently making (which isn't very much).  I would like to think that I will be able to give some of this extra money to people who have not been given the opportunities I have had.  And I'm saying this now because I want to be held responsible for this very statement when the time does come that I have a "real" job.

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