I saw Joe Kennedy, of Kennedy Family fame, on TV the other day promoting "Joe Oil." "Joe Oil" is a foundation set up by Citgo Oil Company and the "people of Venezuela" to provide oil for Americans who cannot afford to pay for oil. I am sure that if you asked anyone who has needed to tap into this resource, they were glad it was there for them, and it gave them some breathing space.
Besides my obvious political concerns about dealing with a country ruled by a ruthless dictator, who many believe would like nothing better than to hold the United States hostage to their product, I am wondering why people should have to look to the government of Venezuela and Citgo Oil for help, when help should be available from their own communities?
Right here in Hammonton there is much affluence, and people are willing to give when they are made aware of a need. A full nine percent of our town's population falls below the poverty level. Of that fact, not many of us are aware. That means, if our town population is about 18,000 people, just over 1600 of us fall below that poverty mark. Sixteen hundred people, right in our midst - and that does not include our yearly influx of seasonal workers. Sixteen hundred people in varying degrees of the psychic and emotional pain that comes with the helplessness and hopelessness of poverty. National statistics show that twenty-three percent are chronic, so we have to accept that there will always be the poor among us. That leaves sixtry-seven percent, who are in varying degrees of transition: those newly out of a job, single moms, those newly unable to work due to illness, and many others who fall through the cracks of our helping systems for reasons most of us can't even imagine. And the question has been raised in recent discussions as to how one can be expected to live on seven dollars an hour. The answer is, they can't - without help. How much pain are we willing to watch our brothers and sisters bear without offering a helping hand?
Recently, concerned citizens here have come together to develop solutions under the auspices of the Hammonton Area Ministerium. We are not laboring under any false assumption that we can save the world, but we believe we can help those around us. We are aware that we have a responsibility, and we are working to build a foundation of help that will last. Right now we are all aware that economic conditions may be worsening, so the ranks of those needing help will probably grow. We want to be prepared. We want to use wisdom. We know that there are all kinds of people out there who may try to take advantage of available resources when they don't really need them. We also know that just because someone is poor, it doesn't mean they are likeable or noble, and that they may be sometimes hard to deal with (just like the general population!). But we also believe that we still have a responsibility to help as much as we can.
So, I say forget Joe Oil. Tell them "we don't need your help here - we are helping our own!" Lay up some treasure in your heavenly bank account so you can draw on it when you need it, and help someone right in your own home town. If you don't know anyone who needs help, I sure do.