After Dad’s death, I was looking through his belongings and found something that I’m sure Mom cut from the paper. I could not find a date on the clipping, but the reverse side was advertising ground beef for 39 cents per pound. Take a look.
Society is my shepherd; I shall not work.
It alloweth me to lie down on a feather bed.
It leadest me beside the still factories; it destroyeth my ambition.
It leadeth me in the paths of a goldbrick for politics sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of inflation and deficit spending,
I will fear no evil, for the welfare agencies are with me.
Their generosity and their staff, they comfort me.
They prepared the requisitions that filleth my table,
By mortgaging the earnings of my grand children.
My head is filled with mirth that my cup runneth over without effort;
Surely, the taxpayers shall care for me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of a parasite forever.
So it seems concern about government programs is an old issue. But this “psalm” gives me concern. I’m concerned that someone believed this sarcastic rewrite of the 23rd Psalm was the proper response to the poor. In fact, to me, being “poor” means that I lack something, and we all lack something. Usually people think being poor is lacking money or material goods, but I can also lack friendships, understanding, spirituality, listening skills, hope, self-esteem, humility, job skills, good health, and a hundred other things. We are all poor, and we all need help.
I don’t see this song as helping anything. It seems to judge rather than understand and redeem. It seems to forget that we each can learn something from one another. It seems to forget that each of us has some kind of poverty, even if I deny it exists. It ignores that I have little room to mock and degrade people who are poor in a different way than me.
I wager to say that most of us have some kind of poverty that seems to cling to us. A kind of poverty that sucks the strength and hope from us. We try to fill that lack by hard work, wrong choices, determination, trying again, and failing again. Getting out of poverty, all kinds of poverty, can be a struggle. The struggle isn’t always just with ourselves, as this “psalm” implies. The struggle may be with systems, lack of support, or no foothold to start the journey. That’s where we all need to help. Perhaps the worst kind of poverty is a lack of friendships. My friendships have aided me in many a problem, and this aid started with my family. Life can be incredibly hard without a healthy, uplifting family. Thankfully I only know that fact secondhand, many people know it up close and personal.
So the best thing I can do is to help those who are ready to help themselves and pray for those who aren’t. If each one of us helped the other, I believe we would see less poverty of all kinds. We would have richer lives if for no other reason than that we would have each other.