I enjoy my Downtown Rotary Club. I like the fellowship over lunch, working with others for a better world and learning something from the speakers.
Today, a room-full of Rotarians gathered on the Missouri State University campus, despite the swiftly accumulating snow fall, and we heard about a problem that is becoming increasingly visible in our community.
It is the problem of increasing poverty, hunger, even homelessness--including among public school students here. Today, we learned that more than 60 percent of Springfield Public School students are on subsidized or free school lunches.
The presenters, Morey Mechlin of Care to Learn, a community-wide response to poverty, and her son, Christian, who works with needy, at-risk public school students, briefed us on the reality of poverty in our community.
Morey and Christian talked about generational poverty and, now, increasingly, situational poverty. Many of the situationally poor had once been middle class but have now become poor because of catastrophic illness and lack of health care insurance, divorce and family disintegration, chronic unemployment or underemployment, among other causes.
I know and minister to people who are poor generationally--they are resigned to it as the way of their lives--and who are poor situationally. Morey said we need to care about both groups of people.
After their presentation, I commended the Morey and Christian for their courage in talking about this problem. I know they might be criticized for their advocacy for the poor.
I think about Jesus' story of the Good Samaritan. Far too people simply hurry by the need. I have been that person who hurried by.
It will be hard for us Rotarians to hurry by the need now.
Poverty can eradicated or, at least, greatly reduced. Morey said education and relationships--healthy and nurturing--are a big part of the solution.
I am proud of my fellow Rotarians for attending the meeting on this snowy Tuesday, for their courage in listening to this sobering presentation and for wanting to do something about it.
I am also proud of the many churches--Baptist, Assembly of God, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Anglican, Roman Catholic, Methodist and non-denominational--for stopping and helping the many people at the roadsides of our community.
This is love. This is true religion. This is what Christianity is all about.