Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Are The Poor Lazy?


This is certainly a common idea: the poor are poor because they won't get up off their ass and do something about their life. People quote the book of Proverbs to confirm this belief-- that the sloth has poverty creep up on them. Of course, those who quote this about the poor are mixing up the cause and effect: The proverb states that the lazy man becomes poor, not that the poor man is so due to their laziness. In our society, many of the lazy can become very well off. And certainly the well off are encouraged to gain a sense of privilage and so become lazy.

In my experience, the poor are rarely lazy. They expend a lot of energy to survive and to meet their basic needs. The non-poor, on the other hand, take their survival needs for granted.

If the poor were given opportunities where their effort would accomplish just half as much as the non-poor, then they would work hard. Some poor work very hard, such as immigrants (especially the illegals) and the newly homeless. They work eighty hours a week, to accomplish the proverb that Americans love to quote: "Work hard and you'll get ahead."

It is when the poor realize the lie of that proverb that they give up working. When they realize that they are never going to accomplish their goals in life-- as small as they are-- because they lack that other ingredient so necessary for getting ahead: good luck.

Then you see the poor laying about with no drive to persevere-- because they know the drive has no means by which it must be accomplished. They lack hope.

If the churches and middle class created opportunities for hope, then the hopeless poor would again be ready to work. I have just seen a long term homeless heroin addict get an opportunity to work landscaping part time for a hospital. If he skips a day, they still keep him on. But the joy and hope in his life because he has accomplished that which was fruitless for so long is priceless. Just because of a real opportunity, with no strings.

So next time you hear someone claim that the poor are lazy, ask them if they have ever given the poor a chance to work.

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