These days, we are all besieged with e-mail after e-mail promising solutions to everything that ails us, or telling us how to become rich. Every now and then there is an e-mail that deals with becoming richer in a spiritual manner rather than financial. My wife recently gave me a copy of the following e-mail:
"A well-known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20 bill. In the room of 200, he asked, 'Who would like this $20 bill?' Hands started going up.
"Then he said, 'I am going to give this $20 to one of you, but first let me do this.' He proceeded to crumple the $20 bill. He then asked, 'Who still wants it?" Still the hands went up in the air.
"Next he dropped the $20 bill on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now crumpled and dirty. 'Now, who still wants it?' Still the hands went up in the air.
"My friends, we have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what was done to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20.
"Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless.
"But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value. Dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to those who do love you. The worth of our lives comes in what we do and by WHO WE ARE."
Montana's 2003 survey of the homeless survey, counted 2,792 people in the nine largest cities in the state. Fifty-one percent of all the homeless counted were in families, and one out of every five homeless people is 13 years old or younger.
Contrary to popular opinion, homeless does not necessarily mean transient: About
60 percent of all the homeless had been living in that community for more than two years. Thirty-seven percent had been living in the surveyed community for more than six years.
I've witnessed first hand the many volunteers who support organizations in Missoula and elsewhere, and it is always gratifying that they recognize the worth of their fellow citizens. First-time volunteers often come with preconceptions about the homeless and low-income people we serve, but later, they develop a whole new respect for the people they meet. Hearing some of the stories of how people came to be in their current situation, volunteers often say: "There but for the grace of God go I."
In 2004, we should all strive to curb our prejudices, and to seek the worth of all. As it says in Acts 17:24-26:
"God that made the world, and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshiped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth."
Joseph Bischof is the executive director of Missoula's Poverello Center Inc. Reach him by calling 728-1809 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.