Reading a little article on Jimmy Butler, a professional basketball player, wherein was told a bit of the story of his life. Here it is summed up in the Oracle Wikipedia:
Butler’s father abandoned the family when he was an infant. By the time he was 13 years old and living in the Houston suburb of Tomball, his mother kicked him out of the house. As Butler remembered it in a 2011 interview, she told him, “I don’t like the look of you. You gotta go.” He then bounced between the homes of various friends, staying for a few weeks at a time before moving to another house.
In a summer basketball league before his senior year at Tomball High School, he was noticed by Jordan Leslie, a freshman football and basketball player at the school, who challenged him to a three-point shooting contest. The two immediately became friends, and Butler began staying at Leslie’s house. Although his friend’s mother and stepfather, who had six other children between them, were reluctant at first, they took him in within a few months. Butler would later say, “They accepted me into their family. And it wasn’t because of basketball. She [Michelle Lambert, Leslie’s mother] was just very loving. She just did stuff like that. I couldn’t believe it.
Jimmy Butler by all accounts is a remarkable person, who refused to give up despite a horrible childhood. But he gives great credit to ‘mommy’ – what he call Michelle Lambert – for giving him the love that got him through it all.
There are no doubt plenty of programs, both real and dreamt, to help out kids like Jimmy Butler. Some of them may even do some good. But it is when real human beings decide to get involved, to show some love and care at a human level, that the lives of people in need are changed.
Thus, talking about band-aides that address symptoms like ‘the word gap’ is not just missing the point, but diverting attention from real problems – the kind of problems that lead to a mother throwing her teen-age son out of the house because she doesn’t like his look. When the Pope talks about the kind of Christianity that gets its hands dirty, that goes out into the streets like St. Paul, St. Vincent de Paul and Mother Teresa, the kind of thing that Mrs. Lambert did is what I think he’s talking about.
Getting involved with other people is not usually going to result in a happy-happy story like Jimmy Butler’s or Michael Oher’s. If that’s what we expect, we’re going to be more than disappointed. Reaching out to others is to embrace the Cross. There will be failure, mistakes, ingratitude, the need to say ‘no’, misunderstandings, confusion, hurt if we are doing our jobs as Christians. Just look at the lives of Jesus and His saints – that’s what we’re asking for when we pick up our crosses.
We have a duty to vote well, and to try as best as we can to make our governments responsive to the poor. BUT – this duty is distinct from and entirely secondary to the commandment to love one another. Voting prudently with the needs of the poor in mind is part of our obligation to honor our secular leaders, and our secular responsibilities. Those responsibilities, however, are not in the list of judgments passed by Christ in Matthew 25, by which we will be judged saved sheep or damned goats. We most definitely do not fulfill even one tiny bit of our personal obligations to feed, clothe and house the poor by voting. Not one tiny bit. Confusion on this point has lead to some awful compromises – sell-outs – of Catholic principles and teachings in the name of social programs. No, no and no. We have traded real moral principles for the sizzle of some future steak – to be cooked up by a government that has demonstrably shown by the very act of extracting that trade that it does not share those principles. (1)
1. It is muddy thinking to imagine that a government can even have moral principles – people have them, if anything does, and defining trait of people in government is a will to power, not adherence to any morality. Even if we elect somebody of character, they only last a day, and are replaced.