A prickled conscience reels
From tendencies to reject appeals
For the downtrodden; forsaking victims
Of crippling conditions; stricken
And helpless; drug-ravaged; sickened;
Doomed on a slippery path to perdition;
At evasive maneuvers to duck
Any action to nudge the stricken up.
Rarely igniting any flicker
Of hope, our reaction is quicker
To flinch from extending hands
With time or cash donations or food cans,
Or succor for those in free-fall failing--
Maybe teens doomed to jailing--
Or welcoming lonely aliens
Flung far from home and friends.
In truth, a track record often lacks
Sensible and reasonable acts;
Running a lonely race by spending wealth
On our own well-protected health;
Ignoring attention to infected others,
Wasted children and exhausted mothers
With empty stomachs and food plates
And futures dogged by miserable fates.
It's commonplace to shun
The unlovely stuck down on rungs
Of society's ladder; it's for others
To reach out to cast-down brothers
And rekindle their sputtering candle:
The drug-blasted homeless who panhandle
And vex pedestrians, who ignore their pleas
And pay three dollars for Starbucks coffee.
The shabby discards, with quarters pinched
In desperate fingers finance a fix or an inch
Of crimson in a wine bottle;
The righteous view is, "We don't coddle,"
While striking million-dollar deals;
Consuming four-square meals:,
Residing in large homes with empty spaces;
Bereft of babies or children's faces.
The frequent fallback position,
Within church or social tradition,
Assuages conscience to spare
An odd hour here and there
Among the lost for a spell
To broach salvation of the Gospel--
Those faithful in accord that it's the "walk"
In the Word that counts, not the "talk."
Some such souls dole out soup to those
Grubby in soiled, shabby clothes
Who ferret through trash barrels
For crumbs or fragments; or warble carols
At Christmas for prisoners cast adrift,
So grateful for a token-gift;
Or package in bright paper
Toys for inmate kids, the "Angel Tree" caper.
Often it's de rigueur to ignore the roaming
Homeless, stumbling and homing
In humbly helter-skelter
At the doors of the nearest shelter
If the community has a tender spirit
And doesn't doubt and fear it
Because it's not politically correct;
Neighbors can noisily pose a hex.
Uncaring types hype seeding bird-flocks
In their rainbow-feathered smocks
Swarming fulsome backyard feeders--
Much more colorful and dearer
Than huddling brothers facing the bite
Of wind-snapped snow to weakly fight
While seeking respite from a cruel night;
Few passersby notice their plight.
Pledging hours of assistance are ruled
Out by self-imposed time capsules:
Wandering lost in a romantic book;
Couched before TV's for long looks
At mindless network shows
Or tasteless, vapid videos;
Surfing the net for political views
To amuse and check up on the news.
Meanwhile millions of families are dying
And children in hunger and pain are crying;
Scarcely surviving, facing hurdles
In merely scraping a few kernels
Of grain from hardscrabble soil
In sun-baked, grueling years of toil.
Minimal supporting hands are there;
Only the God of the poor could care.
Usually unconcern precludes their cause;
No pause nor motive to wind the gauze
Of compassion to bind festering cracks
Hard lives have lashed on quivering backs.
Simply writing a check is among courses
When the conscience flares and forces
Reflection; but the larger question continues:
How to redeem the uncaring and the abused?
A fabled children's story relates
How we prioritize our "me-first" fates.
As we face our daily tasks,
We confront the mirror and ask,
"Mirror, mirror on the wall,
"Who is the fairest of them all?"
And set up a day for personal gain;
Support for the needy is disdained.
Yet that mirror can reflect a better image,
Cast across a humanitarian bridge
To fill a local need with a helping hand
Or help a poor village in a distant land.
A woman in an American city who presses
The cause of the homeless stresses
We are all mirrors: "How we see each other
"Affects how we help each other."
Couldn't we bypass our pampered faces
And pause in our frantic daily races
To peer beyond our mirror and bathroom wall
To mean streets where the forgotten totter and fall;
And merge to plot for those out of mind
And sight to seek deliverance and find
Common paths to merge time, wealth and bread
To save bodies, souls and lift weary heads?