Gerry Harvey puts the cats amongst the pidgeons or, to put it another way, gives some sacred cows a hefty boot in the sirloin.
It is not whether he said it or didn’t say it, he has sparked debate about a topic most Australians feel strongly about but are not game to express their points of view on. In looking at the response, it is split between those who agree and those who don’t. Some want to see assistance given only to those who make an effort (often undefined) and who see poverty as solely an individual problem. Others see poverty as a product of a faulty system and therefore see both the need for assistance and a restructure of the system (again undefined) as the most appropriate action.
It seems to me there is merits in both ideas but is there not something missng in this discussion? The discussion seems to be about an undefined ‘them’, an unknown some one who ceases to be real to us. There seems to be an uncrossable distance between us who, by inference are productive, effective and having a go, and those who are by the same inference not pulling their weight and are therefore dispensable.
Any attempt to give a human face to both arguments is at best anecdotal and often isolated personal experiences from people who have not lived the life of poverty they are attempting to describe.
The problem? Failure to see that each person in this story is just that, a person like us, made in the image of God who, at one time in their lives, had dreams, hopes and aspired to great things. Somewhere along the way life intervened and things changed. It is important to note only things changed; they are still the same as they were created, carrying the divine spark.
The challenge for all of us is to remember that we share that same divine spark with them and it is this which must underpin our dealings with them. We must see them as equals and requiring our compassion and support however that may be delivered to ensure that divine spark is nurtured. It may never flame into vibrant life, and ours may not either, but it must still be allowed oxygen to flicker in the winds of adversity and triumph that is life.
It’s about hope not productivity, it is about life not success and it’s about being so that we are challenged on, not just how we deal with their life but what we do with ours.
Gerry challenges us to think about how we see others and how we live in response to them and our own opportunities to make a difference.