I realized today that my dear sweet mother Ruth Naomi, was named by my grandparents after two migrant farm workers, the widow Ruth and her loving mother in law Naomi. They were gleaners who survived on what they accumulated after reaper’s harvest, so they lived a poor but contented existence. My mother taught in a school that had a group of Bracero (migrant farm worker) children, and like her name sake Ruth and Naomi, these beautiful children and their dignified parents were highly industrious and took pride in their labor. My mother’s only regret was that her wonderful Bracero Children; would have to do much of their learning after long periods of travel, or after a full day of labor and a meager dinner, sometimes studying by a small incandescent light bulb or flickering candle.
My mother came by her sensitivity and caring from her parents, whom along with her doting Navajo grandmother, and two brothers, who all tried to cope with living in the Depression era of the 1930’s. My grandfather (Cherokee and black) was a strong devoted quiet minister who knew, loved and morally followed the Holy Bible, my grandmother of black and Navaho extraction was equally of strong Christian character. My Grandparents lived by the verses in Proverbs 31:10 – 29, “Who can find a Virtuous Woman?, for her worth is far above that of Rubies!”, and by example used these passages to instill a strong Christ like work ethic in their three children, whom were expected to have love, compassion, and respect for all the Gleaners of the world (Ruth 2:16). My parents raised us children to be polite, industrious, generous, self sacrificing, and to exude a spirit of hopefulness to the disenchanted. Though we lacked many of life’s necessities we were never poor, later when God favored my family with material goods, we were able to help others like us. We were admonished to treat others like Boaz treated Ruth and Naomi, not only to give what we could afford to give, but more importantly protect the defenseless from those who wished them harm.
Often when I hear people taking about migrant labor, I wonder if they ever read The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck; about how poor white and black farmers and migrant workers, who spent years on the brink of starvation and ruin. President Herbert Hoover ordered General John J. Pershing, to forcibly subdue Bonus March Veterans protesting in 1932 in Washington D.C., instead of honoring America’s pledge to compensate these loyal American ex-soldiers, protestors were bludgeoned and shot at and their belongings and encampments destroyed. President Hoover refused to honor their plea for just promised compensation, veterans like the American farmers had been of invaluable service to this country, only to be ignored and abused at their time of dire need. Unfortunately the lessons of the Bible in the book of James (James 2:2-13) of helping the poor and needy are often lost on church folk, who search for more inspiration and insight on the internet or Christian entertainment talk shows, and elect to believe the Benjamin Franklin saying, “God helps those, who helps themselves”.
People unwilling to help others often misrepresent the Bible scripture 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “If you don’t work, you don’t eat”, while I believe that the work of a true Christian believer is unrelenting Faith. I was taught that all my good works or deeds (Isaiah 64:6) are but filthy contaminated rags, that all the good and great things that I experience or accomplished are by God’s Grace(Ephesians 2:8, 9), so I’m admonished to not boast or condemn others. One could say that you would have to physically toil and make money or barter to eat, but then also you might falsely that the reason most people are poor or homeless, is because they lazy or have some mental or physical defect.
When I first wrote this in 2009 I had a great home, really good health and no legal or societal problems, in short order I became homeless, plagued with related legal and financial upheavals, attacked by familiar people and even strangers, and five months later underwent five way C.A.G.B bypass surgery. My church and parishioners weren’t there for me, I only wanted my church family to be spiritually supportive and lift me up in their prayers, but unfortunately it was the holiday season and they were paradoxically preparing for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Family and friends did come to my rescue, people in the same or worse circumstance offered assistance, compassionate caring Christians and non-Christians lent me an ear ventilate and a shoulder on which to cry. I obtained instant empathy for our people who have been enduring this tragic lifestyle for years, and still trying to raise a family and stay one step ahead of all the catastrophes they see heading toward them from the horizon. Life then became one misfortune after another, it seemed like the poorer I got the more bills I incurred, I dressed and carried myself like a successful business person, but all the while fearful people would I carried the cursed mark of the homeless.
I had been unaware how dangerous it could be out there for people like me, I encountered and was even dependent for shelter on extremely functionally psychotic people, who use their offices or status in shelters twelve step style housing facilities to dominate and terrorize those they are charged to help. Because I became poor, homeless, and physically incapacitated, I was inducted into a lower taboo caste, I became painfully aware of how the American Outcasts were denigrated by society, in the press, and by our politicians. Even a year later after finally regaining some of my footing, I am still scared by the brutality and insensitivity of my American society, and am working on diminishing my guilt and sadness for those like me who are still grievously suffering. I fortunately have a good church family and have been in successful recovery since 1976, my loving family has cheered me on through all my crisis, and like all Americans in this present economy I’m having to gird my loins and hope for the best,
Morris Dees stated in a hate trial in Portland that, the worse thing about prejudice isn’t Believing something bad about someone, but Wanting to believe some bad about someone. The migrant workers, poor and homeless, addicts and recovery addicts, those on the list of Them Verses Us which includes me, will always be among us, but that doesn’t mean we cannot change our inhumane mistreatment of the less unfortunates.
Prejudice is a great time saver. You can form opinions without having to get the facts
– E.B. White