Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Will Plant Trees for Food

The other day I saw an air guitarist earning his daily bread.  Or pizza, whatever.

He was on a street corner, holding a sign for a pizza place… it might have been Little Caesar’s or Pizza Hut.. and he was doing what street sign holders do—holding a sign.  Nothing special, except that the sign was in the shape of a rock guitar.  And instead of just holding the sign, or dancing around, or waving at us passers-by, he was rocking.  Yep, he was playing that air guitar for all it was worth.  As a former air guitarist, I really appreciated his work and that he was allowed to do it in public.  Nay, even encouraged.

It makes me consider the many occupations that might gain no heed were it not for forward-thinking employers.   Think of the many mimes hired by the Disney Company to dress in costumes and wander around their parks.  Think of the thousands of artists hired by animation companies (mostly in Korea, but still).  And the many English majors hired by fast food companies… I mean Huffington Post… I mean… wait, how do English majors earn any money?  Think of all the useless theology majors hired to be pastors.  That’s some innovative hiring.

Then I thought of all these folks I know with practical skills.  I know plumbers, electricians, handymen, landscapers, cooks, factory workers… all of whom are on the street.  These aren’t people who are lazy or stupid.  They are good workers and know their business.  But they can’t get work.  Some of them are poor businessmen.  Some of them moved when they should have stayed.  Some of them changed jobs when they should have remained at the one they were at.  Perhaps they made poor decisions.  But their skills are necessary, and they are essential for keeping our society running.  Yet they are left to languish on the street, not even knowing where they could possibly find employment because no one is hiring people who are on the street.

A new friend of mine told me his story the other day.  He was a union construction worker and made 23 dollars an hour.  He had a family, purchased a house and settled into a good middle class life.  He made an error when he passed the ownership of his house to his brother, as a financial decision.  His brother sold the house out from under him.  He then lost his family, and decided to try his hand in another state as a ranch hand.  They underpaid him and gave him horrible living conditions.  He decided to go back to his hometown, but there was nothing there for him.  His family didn’t want him, and he couldn’t find work.  Now he is on his own in a tent and he doesn’t know what to do with his life or even if he should continue to live.

Why can’t we find work for people with skills?  Perhaps their people skills are something to be desired, and perhaps they are not employable by corporations.  But shouldn’t the church be willing to do alternative hiring, to provide people with work who otherwise can’t find work?  If each person saying “get a job” were willing to hire, the number of homeless could be cut in half.