I have Social Security rolling around in my head right now and it won’t leave the premises of my mind, like a fly that keeps buzzing around the house whose microscopic brain and irritating stealth keeps me from crushing it. There’s nothing like sending a housefly to insect purgatory so that it can pay for landing on poop and then landing on my pie. “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord” (Leviticus 19:18), which gives me some hope as we try our best to keep the flies away and jump through the hoops of government.
If you’ve ever wondered what your tax dollars help pay for, it’s this: printing endless pamphlets about overly complex systems designed to make it difficult for a person to get needed help from a program designed to help them. Though I’m grateful to Franklin D. Roosevelt for creating a government program that provides economic security for the needy, I do find it frustrating that giving a hearty “yes” seems to be the last option for every intended beneficiary.
I soothe myself by remembering that most rules are in place because someone attempted to go beyond the intended purpose. Grandpa had step ladders so old they didn’t have a warning sticker on them about not using the top shelf as a step, and McDonalds once sold coffee in cups that didn’t have threats about hot coffee being hot. The reason hotel pools say “no horseplay” is because people like me wanted to run around and do summersaults into the shallow end — its either that or because someone actually brought their horse into the Holiday Inn. At any rate, there’s usually a story behind every rule, every form, every requirement. It couldn’t possibly be just for the sake of making things difficult for families that are already in a difficult spot, right?
I don’t mean to complain. Lexi, whose Down Syndrome and Autism make living alone, let alone having a job, completely impossible, will get benefits. For this I’m thankful. It’s due to my wife being a passionate fighter who doesn’t give up and will brilliantly keep two steps ahead of Uncle Sam. Lexi is fortunate to have her in her corner, but not everyone has a Brittany like I do.
We sat in a cold government waiting room with a plethora of other folks, stared down by the security guard lest anyone approach the window before their time. I imagine a few people have lost their composure while standing at the glass partition, an agent looking back at them to tell them they need yet more paperwork as 5×8 portraits of the President and Vice President looking down upon all of us. I had to wonder if they were posted near the ceiling because so many people had ripped them down through the years.
I used to teach a nonprofit management class. In every session, I would remind students that most of the charitable organizations we know today were founded by the church in the 1800s and early 1900s. Hospitals and schools exist in large part because followers of Christ saw that something needed to be done. Years have passed and most organizations have changed hands and modified their missions, but the calling of the church to stand in the gap remains strong and always will, because people will always be in need in a way that government simply can’t fix.
There are a few things you can do to help. First, keep the special needs population on your radar. They are easily ignored and conveniently forgotten more often than not. You can’t fix everything, but you can help a family in need. We’ve benefitted from countless blessings, given by people who saw the issue and took it seriously enough to make an impact. I’ll never forget how the church I pastored put a group of people together to build a bedroom just for Lexi, or the folks who helped pay for respite care through the years. Every time a casserole shows up, it’s one less thing for a family with their hands full to worry about for an hour or two. When people give to projects like Hope Farm, it bridges the gap between need and reality. You’d think we’d have plenty of places for folks with special needs to live and thrive, but no — it’s a long, long line to get placed in a group home. What does it look like when parents with special needs band together to do what needs to be done? Hope Farm is just one example, and we couldn’t do it without you.
Our friend Jess writes about the struggles of 24/7 caregivers and does a fantastic job of raising awareness. I’ve said before that I was oblivious before Lexi came into our world. In many ways, I still am, as my oblivion is destroyed by harsh reality: there’s a system, yes, but it’s about 7,000 times overloaded beyond capacity. For a nation that seems to have a solution for everything, it’s a punch in the gut to find out that what you thought was there — even what you were told — doesn’t actually exist without an uphill battle.
As I write this, our family is benefitting from a nonprofit horse ranch that focuses on kids who have experienced trauma. Horses, pigs, goats, and an overly friendly cat live here, surrounded by volunteers who help the kids do basic chores. Cam loves it. We see the positive effect in droves. If they didn’t have corporate sponsorship, individual donors, and annual fundraisers, this place simply wouldn’t exist. We just added a bunch of empty pop cans to their year-round recycling drive, which might pay for a horse to eat for a week, depending on how full the trailer gets this time. Every little bit helps.
Speaking of horseplay, here comes Cam in his muck boots and farm coat, a huge smile on his face. Whatever they do here works, and there’s little chance that a government bureaucracy could accomplish the same. Even a robust social program funded by the taxpayer can’t cover all the needs of our broken world.
Where would we be without basic generosity?
We must teach generosity to our kids and celebrate when people give. We have to communicate the need without sounding pushy or desperate, thought that can’t help but come through from time to time. Most of us are in over our heads here.
Thanks for reading, for praying, for listening, for paying attention, and for your generosity. We are grateful.