Tuesday, October 30, 2012

They Forgot Something

Just read this article on Yahoo! Finance which talks about the fact that there are many more folks in the U.S. who could have applied for unemployment benefits yet didn't for a variety of reasons.

The following quote was of note to me:
There are a variety of reasons why people might not claim their benefits, including anxiety over state investigations into how they lost their jobs or changes in the application process that pose hurdles, said Claire McKenna, a policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project.
I have no doubt that Ms. McKenna's reasons are indeed a part of why some do not apply for unemployment benefits, but I think she misses out on a very, very important one: pride.  And I'm not talking about some sort of hubris in folks thinking they are too good to apply for unemployment benefits.  I'm talking about people who have been taught to work for what they receive.

I've come across more than a few of these folks in my current position as a pastor.  One of the privileges of my office is getting invited into the private lives of many individuals.  Most of my congregation members trust me with what they are going through in life--especially the hard times.  More than a hand-full of my congregation members in over 12 years of ordained ministry have fallen upon hard times for a short amount to a long amout of time.  In every circumstance, I have offered the church's assistance.  More than a few times, I have been turned down.  Flatly.

Everyone has appreciated the offer, don't get me wrong, but every person had a sense of pride about them. Every person wanted to work his/her way out of the situation.  They didn't want to take something for nothing. 

I understand their stance.

Growing up, I was taught the value of work.  I spent hours behind a cotton hoe and with a backpack sprayer running through fields of milo and cotton.  I learned to appreciate the paycheck I received for those hours.  I learned not to game the system and to work at whatever job came my way to make ends meet.  I've worked fast food (never want to do that again), with mentally retarded adults, and with kids during my seminary years.  And, I've been blessed to be paid now for ministering to God's people and preaching His Word.

But, along the way, I received help too.  I am still thankful for my home congregation (St. John Lutheran Church of Robstown) for picking up the cost of my seminary tuition.  I am thankful for those little gifts of kindness and monetary gifts to my family as we were getting established--they really, really helped us out.  I am thankful for those who stepped in and helped my wife and I when we adopted our children.  In every case, we received something without technically working for it.

There is a time and a place for accepting such gifts.  If there really and truly is a need there, take what is offered.  Do not let your pride be foolish pride.  However, such pride, in my estimation, is a great form of preventing abuse.  It's a great way of people having an internal morality which asks, "Do I really need this?"  I am heartened by this article's suggestion that many people have this sense of pride, and it gives me hope for the future.

No comments: