A Lament for Toxic Chairty

In My Name is Child of God...Not '"Those People" Julia K. Dinsmore uses her pen to bring to life a compelling, nuanced image of American poverty. Through her poetry, songs and stories she speaks not as a chairty practitioner, theoretician or advocate (though she is all of those things). She writes as an insider. The story she tells, the portrait she paints is her own. The subtitle of the book is A First Person Look at Poverty. It is a lens we too often do not look through.

This first person voice is severely lacking in the corpus of Christian literature about poverty and the poor.

I am not here, however, to offer a book summary or review. I offer an excerpt from one of the poems she includes in her book. What you are reading below is a quote taken from part five of a six part poem entitled "Rant / Ode to My Desire for Change."  Speaking of her experience as recipient of charity in Minnesota, she says: 


Land of ten thousand social services
nervousness this causes in the logic of me.
Sometimes all I see is the pimping of the poor by poverty professionals.
Don't get me wrong. Your efforts I appreciate, but
could we negotiate a different solution? Please, Lord. 
Where one group of people won't have to make their living
off the backs of the preplanned suffering of others.
I object to the misery by design for the public left out of
   public policy.
In Economics 101, I learned free markets won't function at the point
   of full employment. This fact annoys me. Disparity we create.
Then ameliorate this discrepancy with safety nets that are not.
   Destroys human dignity.
Convinced that we're lazy when we can't feed our families. We're
   defective, inadequate, deficient, and problematic.
Our deficiency, currency valued by poverty industry.
Our value reduced to identity of victim. We learned how to get 
   food stamps.
We learned to exchange our new identity for leftover crumbs from
   thems that got, and God bless the child that's got his own.
We learned. It's been a slow burn. It hurts. It's hurt several generations now.
We learned hoop jump dance step admission to Cabrini Green public
   housing high-rise. Then we learned to survive it,
hellaciously audacious social engineering at its worst. Planned ghetto.
Robert Taylor homes. Thirty thousand strong, stacked up along freeways,
demarcation zones, corridors or delineation between the civilized
   and orchestrated chaos.
We endured frequent occurrences dramatic and traumatic, exacting emphatically 
upon our nature. It was fight or flight stress response, adrenaline
   elixir it was,
too many situations with consequences life or death, it was too often
   death it was, survival it was how our bodies got hotwired for
Our learned behavior may be considered dysfunctional, but its function
got us through travail and hard times. We survived. Now we want to
We name our birthright. We claim our inheritance. We thrive.


In Bob Lupton's "Oath for Helpers" he talks about the need to listen deeply - to what is said and not said - among the communities we seek to serve. This poem is a part of that listening. Her pleading for a different solution that does not destroy human dignity is a challenging but important thing to hear.


Posted on June 18, 2015 .