“Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, "Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbour in your land. (Deut. 15:11).”
I'm taking a lot of pictures for the newspaper this month this month of people donating to the local food bank, which is called on to feed entirely too many people. I don't remember there even being food banks in most communities when I was growing up, though I'm sure there were people in need at that time too. There just seem to be a lot more of them now and the food banks seem to have gone from being an emergency response to the recession of the 80s, to a fixture in virtually every town.
It is difficult to know at this time just what percentage of people in the Golden Horseshoe are living in poverty. Different agencies use different yardsticks to measure poverty and many who live in poverty are not counted, but ask anyone who works with the poor and the homeless and they all agree on one thing: there are a lot more people relying on food banks and other non-governmental charities for daily necessities than there were a few years ago, and a lot fewer donations coming in. Most recent estimates I've seen for the Hamilton area say between 15% and 20% live below the poverty line.
Charles Dickens was right.
``Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask,'' said Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit's robe, ``but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw!''
``It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,'' was the Spirit's sorrowful reply. ``Look here.''
From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment.
``Oh, Man! look here. Look, look, down here!'' exclaimed the Ghost.
They were a boy and girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.
Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.
``Spirit! are they yours?'' Scrooge could say no more.
``They are Man's,'' said the Spirit, looking down upon them. ``And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!'' cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. ``Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse! And bide the end!''
``Have they no refuge or resource?'' cried Scrooge.
``Are there no prisons?'' said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. ``Are there no workhouses?''