Those People

‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’  Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ – Matthew 25:44-45

Democrats
Welfare Recipients
Republicans
Police Officers
Muslims
The One Percent
Immigrants
Black Lives Matter
Packer Fans

These are just a few of the categories of “those people”.  We conveniently paint them with a single brushstroke, which allows us to categorize, demonize and dismiss them. We all do this. It seems to make life easier, simplifying what feels complicated and overwhelming. Perhaps we’ve always done this, but it seems to me that we’re currently engulfed in an epidemic of it.

But it all comes crashing down when one of “those people” suddenly has a face, a name, a story. Now they breathe. They bleed. They dream. They love. Now they are not so easily categorized, demonized and dismissed. Check out this news story for a recent example.

Local poet, Julia Dinsmore, says it so well in her poem entitled “My Name is Not ‘Those People’”

My name is not “Those People.”
I am a loving woman, a mother in pain, giving birth to the future, where my babies have the same chance to thrive as anyone.

My name is not “Inadequate.”
I did not make my husband leave – he chose to,
and chooses not to pay child support.
Truth is thought, there isn’t a job base for all
fathers to support their families.
While society turns its head, my children pay the price.

My name is not “Problem and Case to Be Managed.”
I am a capable human being and citizen, not a client.
The social service system can never replace the compassion
and concern of loving Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Fathers,
Cousins, Community – all the bonded people who need to be
but are not present to bring children forward to their potential.

My name is not “Lazy, Dependent Welfare Mother.”
If the unwaged work of parenting, homemaking and community building was factored into the Gross National Product, my work would have untold value. And I wonder why my middle-class sisters whose husbands support them to raise their children are glorified – and they don’t get called lazy and dependent.

My name is not “Ignorant, Dumb or Uneducated.”
I live with an income of $621 with $169 in food stamps.
Rent is $585. that leaves $36 a month to live on. I am such a genius at surviving that I could balance the state budget in an hour.

Never mind that there is a lack of living-wage jobs.
Never mind that it is impossible to be the sole emotional, social and economic support to a family.
Never mind that parents are losing their children to the gangs, drugs, stealing, prostitution, social workers, kidnapping, the streets, the predator.
Forget about putting money into schools – just build more prisons.

My name is not “Lay Down and Die Quietly.”
My love is powerful and my urge to keep my children alive will never stop. All children need homes and people who love them. They need safety and the chance to be the people they were born to be.

The wind will stop before I let my children become a statistic.
Before you give in to the urge to blame me,
the blames that lets us go blind and unknowing into
the isolation that disconnects us, take another look.
Don’t go away.
For I am not the problem, but the solution.
And…My name is not “Those People.”
[1]

Who are “those people” in your life? Be honest with yourself. This is something we all struggle with. What can you do to give “those people” a name, a face, a story this week? If nothing else let’s not forget the name, face and story that Jesus has given every one of “those people”: Christ.

Jeff Marian serves as lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN

[1] Julia Dinsmore’s poem, My Name Is Not “Those People,” is included in her book, My Name Is Child of God … Not “Those People”: A First-Person Look at Poverty (Augsburg Fortress Publishers).

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  • Dave Hefko

    Good Stuff, Jeff, I have thought so much about exactly this subject lately and how different I feel about people when I meet them. I wonder how much this epidemic is fueled by a world filled with digital communication in place of face to face meetings. As I have told you of my own experience with my involvement with http://www.ujamaaplace.org/ and the men there. I can’t imagine that I would have ever come to the realization of what they faced without going there and meeting them face to face. Talk about a paradigm shift!
    Show me a person that God didn’t make and I will show a person that God doesn’t Love.
    Thanks for your wisdom.

  • Kay Erickson

    What a powerful poem. Thanks for sharing!