Monday, December 24, 2007

Fallen Grapes

Protestors in New Orleans were arrested for violently opposing the tearing down of a low income housing project. Can you imagine what these residents must be going through? The only housing that they can afford is being ripped down due to a circumstance outside of their control. Katrina came through and ripped apart that city and now that the health conditions have deteriorated so bad that they are having to level buildings. I can’t imagine staying and living in that high rise with mold, no electricity, broken foundation, and broken walls. Now even the most lowly of living is being taken away from them. The reason they are upset is not because the city is closing the housing project due to unhealthy living conditions. The reason they are upset is because they presume that when they are rebuilt that the city will not return them to low income housing and will thus force them out of the city or perhaps on the streets. When I read this my heart immediately sunk into my chest. Because I feel their fears! I don’t think the government will rebuild a brand new building just to offer it to low income families again. They will push them into the next hole in the wall building that will be closed soon. This will become an ugly cycle until they are on the streets! When weather conditions become bad, homeless folks do a crime so they can have shelter in a jail with food. I’m not sure my conscious can take this thought process but here we go…A mother of three whose father left cannot get a good job because she didn’t go to college, Hurricane Katrina comes along and destroys all she and her children know, after the clean up they are at least allowed to live in the shambles of their past life by staying in this nasty building. The local government decides that the housing project is too risky to health so shuts it down. When they are rebuilt they will be built into nice condos that she can no longer afford. She moves around the city until she can find something or somewhere to sleep in with her children. She’s trying to support her kids so she may get into some criminal things that get her put into jail and then her children are taken away from her…Ok, I feel like I want to cry now. Does this woman or her family have any control? How hopeless can this be? I don’t blame them for reacting to the news of their housing project closing the way they did.
The story reminded me of something I’ve read before. God told Israel this in Leviticus, “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien (Leviticus 19:9-10).” The idea here is that God cares for those without. He specifically told the farmers to not go over their harvest again so that anything left would be for those without. The exegetical idea here is that God provides us with abundance and we should provide the left-overs to those who have not. In a city in the most wealthy country in the world, I am sure abundance exist, even in conditions like Katrina. Why can’t we leave left-overs for the poor? Why must we go and sweep out everything from the land (this project building in this case) and leave nothing for them? Then we sit around in our suits, in our leather chairs flabbergasted by their reaction to the news that their homes will be demolished. Why is it that the wealthy are allowed to make decisions that will change the lives and futures of the least of these? It's tough on these people when God tells us to prive them grapes left-over, but we pick them up instead. Do we not think about the scenario of the woman and her three children? I can’t change the government alone, I can’t change wealthy investors desires, but I can pray for those who will have their lives torn down. Let us pray that God, the great comforter, will encourage them and provide for their needs in this great time of need.

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