Mark (14:7), Matthew (26:11), and John (12:8) all claim that Jesus said, “The poor will always be around.” I have never liked that statement. It’s defeatist, and I want to prove it wrong. In the 1960s, when Lyndon Johnson was president, he led a war on poverty and was about 40 percent successful. Then Nixon became president, and the program was killed.
My last blog post, “ Sorry! No Blog Post This Week,” was a not-so-subtle way of suggesting that good news is hard to find. But on May 22, 2022, I found a great story on 60 Minutes about a program called Hope Chicago and want to share it.
The interviewer talked with a wealthy white man who started this new venture. He and his wealthy friends pay all the expenses and related costs to send promising young people (mostly black) living in the poverty-stricken areas of Chicago to college to give them a chance for a brighter future. Without such a program, the future is rather bleak. These generous folks know that by educating and supporting these young people, the poverty cycle could be broken.
This feature was the most inspirational story I have encountered for a long time. My imagination went bonkers. Suppose our government offered large incentives to big businesses and wealthy people to underwrite such projects all over our country? That would be a game changer, similar to one in which my wife and I have been involved since it started in 1995 in a small community in Baja, Mexico, called the Baja Scholarship Foundation (BSF).
The story began when our friends Judie and Ken Kesson were shopping at a neighborhood grocery store in the little town of La Mission. They saw the principal of the local elementary school, started chatting, and asked him what his greatest need was. He replied that he had some gifted children who were so poor that their family couldn’t afford to even buy the uniforms and books necessary to attend the free elementary school. He then shared the story about a very bright third grader whose family lived in a tin shack without water and electricity. Her father, if he could find work, made only a couple of dollars a day.
Ken and Judie went home, discussed it, and decided to underwrite all the costs for this little girl to go to school and thus began BSF. The Kessons supported that little girl and her family through elementary school, junior high, high school, the local university, and medical school. That woman now is a doctor in Ensenada, and she made sure her brothers, sisters, and her own children are all educated. She then moved her parents into decent housing, and the poverty cycle was broken for that family.
When friends and family of Ken and Judie heard that story, they were inspired and became involved. Twenty-seven years later, BSF has helped over 110 children and their families escape a life of abject poverty by sponsoring poor children living in this area. Almost all these young people went on to college, and BSF alumni include dentists, social workers, businesspeople, technology experts, firefighters, and medics. A few of our alumni went to chef training schools and are now running their own restaurants. Presently, about forty young people are being sponsored for their entire education. All this is done with volunteers.
Currently, BSF has a large company in San Diego heavily committed to our cause, and our alumni are starting to sponsor new students in appreciation for the chance they received to move out of that vicious cycle.
What if religious institutions, service clubs, women’s groups, small businesses, and other interested groups emulated Hope Chicago and BSF all over the United States? Can you see the end of the idea that “the poor will always be around”?
I can and can’t wait to tell Jesus, “No more poor!”
Peace Love Joy Hope
Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash