All of the Bums and Other Para-Persons

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Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare, social justice can never be attained.
– Helen Keller

ParaHuman[1]Taking into consideration years of manual labor, over six years of ordained ministry, one year as an information and referral specialist in social service, as well as my current situation; the idea that most welfare recipients are “on welfare” simply because they do not have the initiative, drive, and desire to work and, thus, “better themselves” has become increasingly unappealing to me. Point in fact, this rhetoric almost nauseates me; and it would completely nauseate me, except for the fact that there are, after all, what some largely ill-informed and rather coldhearted people refer to as “welfare bums.” I’ve come to wonder – especially given the numerous honest women and men of upstanding character and integrity I have known, who have received (or still do) some form of welfare – just how many “welfare bums” there really are in our society, though… I also wonder if the welfare naysayers have any firm idea.

Thankfully, the United States seems to be moving in an increasingly favorable direction, at least economically. The Department of Labor recently issued an encouraging report on employment:

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 223,000 in June, and the unemployment rate declined to 5.3 percent. Job gains occurred in professional and business services, health care, retail trade, financial activities, and transportation and warehousing.[1]

This is wonderful news – that is, that presumably over 220 thousand individuals are working, who were previously unemployed – but the downside is still the side that’s down; the side that’s been down for who knows how many years now, and can’t seem to “get up off the mat” so to speak, even when employed. Obviously we shouldn’t believe that everything hangs on economics (the corporationist mentality), but if “love of money is the root of all evil,” then money must be a rather powerful ingredient in life, whether an attractive banquet or merely left-over consommé. And other economic facts speak to the matter rather bluntly:

In 2013, there were 45.3 million people in poverty. For the third consecutive year, the number of people in poverty at the national level was not statistically different from the previous year’s estimate…[2]

And importantly:

Many families in America’s struggling lower-middle class – defined to include those with income between 100 and 250 percent of the federal poverty level, or between roughly $15,000 and $60,000, depending on family size and composition – live in economically precarious situations. Though not officially poor, these families experience limited economic security; one major setback in income could push them into poverty…

Nearly one in five American working-age families with children lives in poverty, officially defined as being below 100 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). Approximately 30 percent of families have incomes that place them between 100 and 250 percent of the FPL. Federal poverty thresholds vary by family size and composition, meaning that families with the same income, but with different household compositions, can be in different positions relative to the FPL… These families’ proximity to the poverty line means that any unanticipated downturns in income could push them into poverty. For this reason, we could reasonably consider these families to be the struggling lower-middle class.[3]

Perhaps somewhat shockingly, although higher education does certainly make an overall positive difference, nevertheless:

Thirty-three percent of household family heads below 100 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) attended at least some college, although just 6 percent of those family heads have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Among household family heads with income between 100 and 250 percent of the FPL, 48 percent have attended some college, and14 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher.[4]

Or, maybe, this is not so surprising; after all, education is not everything, especially in a society that has been and continues to become increasingly specialized, so that someone with earned Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees cannot find suitable employment because s/he lacks particular education and/or training for an open job position, (which is something personally understood and suffered.) This leads to the problem society has recently chosen to brand “underemployment,” although attempting to find, say, day-labor jobs when one has even an Associate’s degree can often be frustrating simply because stores, businesses, etc. deem the person “overqualified” and, thus, place their application into the infamous “file 13.” Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that “in May 2015, the U.S. underemployment rate was 14.7 percent.”[5] Now … how many bums do we have here so far?

Really, all in all, it’s fair to say there are millions of people in our society who would like, and are trying, to “better themselves” and their families. They’re not bums in any sense of the word, and “bum” means “a vagrant; lazy and/or worthless person, who gets along by asking or (perhaps more accurately) begging without any intention of working for his/her just desserts.” Again, how many bitter, conservative-types, who look down their long noses at the under-class, can really estimate how many individuals in our country actually fit this description. From my own perspective, though, at least part of the definition – and the centrally important part – could very well be just as genuinely applied to any number of wealthy people … say, the young dilettantes who’ve inherited all their worldly goods from parents and grandparents.

In the final analysis, a bum is a bum is a bum. Right? The only difference between a rich bum and a poor bum is the rich bum has money; yet s/he, too, has not worked for this money. Like the welfare bum, s/he has acquired money, albeit through different channels. One could swap their clothing and residence – mansion for ghetto – and society at large would probably never notice the difference, except for, perhaps, two relevant probabilities: 1) the former wealth bum would whine and cry more loudly than ever did the welfare bum, and 2) the former wealth bum would stand far less chance of actual survival. We are talking about bums, though, so one could also easily imagine the former welfare bum quickly depleting his/her resources, and so, once again, descending to the status of welfare bum. Either way, the bums are bums, but this likely does not include the majority of people living in these United States.

Really, it all comes down to this, an admittedly old aphorism, but “we rise and fall together.” Sure, there are bums, rich and poor, but the majority of people are generally like people are and have been most everywhere since the beginnings of recorded history. In some way or other, people strive not merely to survive – although most of humanity does do this out of sheer necessity – but also to thrive … not so much materialistically, but creatively, intellectually, aesthetically, spiritually, and communally. It’s part and parcel of being human, or at least striving to be human, to truly “find ourselves,” which is a joint venture, as the late and great theologian, Edward Schillebeeckx, explains:

The element of being together, of contact with our fellow men, through which we can share ourselves with others and even be confirmed in our existence and personhood by others, is part of the structure of personal identity: authorization by others and by society that we, that I, may be, in my own name, in my own identity, a personal and responsible self, however distorted this may be. A society which out of so-called self-protection … leaves no room for the disabled person is not worth a fig.[6]

Amen and Amen. We might just as well alter the last sentence to read, “A society which out of so-called self-protection,” or betterment, “leaves no room for the” poor person or family “is not worth a fig.” And here even the poor, welfare “bum” is more than a para-person, or some creature sub-human; still homo sapien, not homo vilis. Borrowing from Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, “everyone deserves both to love and to be loved,” and from within this communal love to find the “I” of who they are and are intended to be, the unique and divinely-human person they are already. And this entails an awful lot of dedication and loving labor on the part of everyone, but part of this loving labor involves lifting up downtrodden, the nearly-forgotten strugglers, the oppressed and marginalized poor. And this involves an essential change of perspective, a paradigmatic shift throughout society, and the willingness to overthrow and incarcerate the “green-eyed monster” of greed in order to more justly reapportion our goods and resources. For in the last analysis, Helen Keller is absolutely spot on: “Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare, social justice can never be attained.”



[1] United States Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment Situation Summary,” issued July 2, 2015, as posted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed July 4, 2015

[2] Carmen DeNavas-Walt and Bernadette D. Proctor, “Income and Poverty in the United States: 2013,” 12 (Issued September 2014)

[3] Benjamin Harris and Melissa Kearney, “A Dozen Facts About America’s Struggling Lower Middle Class,” as published December 4, 2013 and reported by the Hamilton Project, accessed July 4, 2015

[4] Ibid

[5] As reported by Statista, “U.S. Underemployment Rate From May 2014 to May 2015,” as accessed July 4, 2015

[6] Edward Schillebeeckx, Christ: The Experience of Jesus as Lord, 736-737


Take Action: Tell President and Congress to Raise the Federal Poverty Level (FPL)

Written by noblethemes

July 4, 2015 at 4:49 PM

Shocked By How Many Poor Are Not Considered Poor

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karen_matthews_1210012c[1]Something close to my heart ~ particularly as I have lived it ~ is the plight of the poor. Imagine how shocked I was to learn what the actual “poverty levels” are in the United States! Point in fact, these levels measure not poverty, but dire (almost inhumane) poverty; thousands upon thousands of genuinely poor ~ yes employed and non-employed ~ are authentically poor … but not considered so by the government. Meanwhile, we as a nation subsidize multi-billion dollar corporations in what has justifiably come to be called “corporate welfare.” It’s time this stop!

The Current Poverty Level for individuals is set at an abysmally low $11,770 per annum. For families, it is as follows:

15,930 for a family of 2 — $20,090 for a family of 3 — $24,250 for a family of 4 — $28,410 for a family of 5 — $32,570 for a family of 6

For an individual, this breaks down to approximately $980.33 per month, or $245.20 per week. Many supplementary aid programs, as well as taxation systems, are based upon living below the poverty line. Many of these same programs are denied based upon living above the poverty line. The current levels reflect more than poverty; anyone, or any family, living below these current levels can realistically be said to live in dire poverty. Realistically, many thousands upon thousands of individuals earning income within the range of $14,000 to $16,000 per annum are barely making what could justifiably be termed “a living.” The same holds true for families as well, of course. It is far, far, past time to raise the poverty line to at least a somewhat more decent level! Please sign and spread this petition to compassionate friends and family!

Written by noblethemes

July 3, 2015 at 3:09 PM

Liberty and the Warrior’s Nightmare

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ImperianAmericaPlease, Lord, take this sword of mine,
And turn it into a ploughshare fine.
Let me cut through the earth for food,
Instead of soaking soil with blood.

Is there peace now; oh, can I rest?
Come back home; I’ve done my best.
Is there hope beneath silent stars?
Or just more nights in crowded bars?

They don’t know the pain I hide,
Nightmare killings trapped inside!
And here I kneel, Lord, to confess,
But cannot escape what I possess!

I fought the war and put ‘em down;
Blown through every enemy town.
And still they scream inside my head;
These haunting souls around my bed.

They don’t know the pain I hide,
Nightmare killings trapped inside!
And here I kneel, Lord, to confess,
But cannot escape what I possess!

No, I cannot escape what I possess…

Written by noblethemes

July 2, 2015 at 10:07 AM

Changing World, Spring of Life

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Panacea_Goddess_of_Healing_by_violscraperThis world around me is changing and with it my spirit grows old;
So cold is every winter as the earth turns, nations churn and hearts sold
For sordid boon, all too soon, ere before rush of spring so bold,
When she empties the lands of harlot bands and rotting minds so old;
Then she dawns in gold, healing in her wings; she sings a story never told,
And we are few, born anew, suckling babes at supple breast; her arms enfold.

This world around me is changing and with it my heart is changing, too;
Sweet Panacea draws near, no fear, bathing me fresh in her fragrant dew;
New wine she pours, my heart-soul soars; journey ‘tween hills ne’er I knew;
Sweet Panacea thru dark hole leads, intoxicating, into her kingdom true,
Warm wrapped to rest, safe in her nest, no harm to come in world so new;
Ne’er did this child even hope to live when the cruel North Wind blew.

This world around us is changing with changes we now can barely trace,
As the cold wind blows and death bell tolls for every hardened face;
For crowning spring, she knows, will bring new life to every empty space,
And muted tongues will sing to end all strife, trade sword for lace,
Darkness die in the light she’ll bring; war cease with peace in its place;
So soon buds break ground in ring of birth, and we all our God embrace.

This world around me is changing … ah! Panacea draws near, no fear…


Written by noblethemes

July 1, 2015 at 7:32 PM

Where Do You Lead? Does It Matter?

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Sweet, soft whisper to my spirit, I know your voice touch,
Your touch, gentle beckon leading forth, fire soul-torched
Forth across burning sands with whisper winds and such
As never seen before through blinding light, heart scorched,
And never ends the journey, but where you lead, I search.

By your light, in your sight, through night, fight the blight,
And the arrow’s flight from enemy hand, to run with all might.

Where do you lead now my life with sweet, soft angel-whisper,
With song sung sweetly, guiding me from my inmost chamber,
With world clamor fading behind, ahead your goal the better
Seen but still unknown, in chords gentle-soft, yet bitter;
Bitter for not knowing, while these desert skies grow bleaker.

None could be more base, fear ne’er to face, brave line to trace,
Yet lance in hand and mace you lead, I follow by step in pace.

But where, oh where, do you lead? Does it matter? I’ve found my place.


Written by noblethemes

July 1, 2015 at 4:47 AM

Up Into the Sun: Longing for the Child

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When I was a child, I thought as a child,Child-running-in-field[1]
And I played like a child, the days so mild.

Looking through a hole in the cloud I saw your smiling face,
It made me so happy, with every line such beauty to trace;
You looked down playfully from the sky and joyfully danced,
And I wildly jumped like a child in your fantasy entranced.

Your Spirit wind blew through trees so wild,
While I chased my dreams a mile-high piled.

Away so far in that big, bright star you led me to a special place,
And who would’ve thought you had a kingdom in outer space?
We sang and skipped, danced and twirled round the fire trees,
And watched in awe the lava honey collected by blazing bees.

When I was a child, so easily beguiled,
Playing so free from the bitter world exiled.

You’d always say the day was for play, with nothing else to say,
So I’d run toward your rainbow with pleasure paving the way;
You’d say I had to leave all sadness behind so I could have fun,
Then you’d take me by the hand and lead me straight into the sun.

From childhood my exodus I made, crossing my Nile
Into the world as it is, still in lonely exile.

Now I long for your days, with such amazing places to go,
And lift my dim eyes into the sky instead of looking so low…
To see your radiant face shining through that hole in the cloud,
To rediscover there are places where joy and happiness abound.

Ah! Sing again your hauntingly beautiful song in hypnotic melody!
Lady Beauty from starlit sky, join the song of the child in harmony!
By trees, flowers, silk air and woolen creatures your lover surround!
In silver stream waters, refreshing, bath me, your grace unbound…

For when I was a child, I thought as a child,
I played like a child, and the days so mild.
So blow through me again, your Spirit so wild;
Let me chase again my dreams, a mile-high piled!


Written by noblethemes

June 30, 2015 at 9:06 PM

Amatory Battle Breaking

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helplessIt’s a spirit-slide in the winter of the soul ‘neath summer’s burning sun;
Torchêd heart laid waste, undone in flying dust of crumbled heart so slyly won.
Haunted man ‘cross desert plain t’outrun his battalion of killer-dark dæmon,
And here at the edge of the world the battle for his eternity has just begun.

‘Where is your Shepherdess,’ voices scream; ‘Tis but the weak man’s dream!’
And is there no one now to redeem, to redeem this man from Death’s regime?
Ah! Such deceiver has his scheme to rule the man’s heart ere so supreme;
Supreme in dream and waking hour, to torture his spirit and heart devour!

Will she come hearing his mournful cry, no lie, and not redemption to deny?
Will she reply and he comply to drink her life and soft salve apply?
Will she fly this man to heavenly sky, to rest him ‘neath angels nearby?
Will she hereby wrap this man in strong arms, transfix him by hypnotic eye?

Precious and robed in Mystery, she is Love,
Who brings to battle-weary peace from above;
To the soul-sick wound, her balm doth apply;
Divine lover, who life gives to earth and sky,
Hear me, who prays and yearns for your flame
To snatch me from death, my heart to claim!


Written by noblethemes

June 29, 2015 at 11:04 AM


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