In his book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. quoted the assistant director of the Office of Economic Opportunity, Hyman Bookbinder, who said in a statement in 1966, “The poor can stop being poor if the rich are willing to become even richer at a slower rate.”
His statement came from a conviction that the long-range costs of implementing programs to fight poverty, ignorance and slums would reach one trillion dollars. This figure did not overwhelm him (despite the fact that, I’m sure, one trillion dollars in 1966 was not something that most people could even comprehend) because he said that the growth of the gross national product during that same time made that figure possible.
I am struck by the simplicity of this statement.
When we think of the concept of the Body of Christ, we talk about how we all bring the best of who we are to the table and we combine our gifts and skills so that we can, as one body, seek the ways God is calling us to serve and to live and to love. We are invited to carry God’s grace and light to all we meet and we do it together. There is no one gift that is better than another and not one person who is dispensable (or indispensable) when it comes to living together as one Body.
This is what we believe. This is what we preach. This is what we call ourselves as the Church.
So if that is where we start—the foundation of our faith—Mr. Bookbinder’s statement takes on new meaning. It means that all of us need to work together to address the issues of poverty in our world. We all have to give something up in order to make the Body strong and whole. If we all give just a little there is nothing we cannot do—no problem we cannot solve. Oppression and poverty and struggle is not something that is someone else’s issue or problem. When one member of the Body suffers, we all suffer. We need to seek ways to support one another in love.
It’s what we are called to do.