“The Gospel takes away our right forever to discriminate between the deserving and the undeserving poor.” – Dorothy Day
“Love and ever more love is the only solution to every problem that ever comes up.” – Dorothy Day
“Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Around the holidays, charitable giving spikes, and the needs of the disadvantaged suddenly seem to matter more than usual: the Salvation Army brings out the famous red kettle, donation bins of clothing, food, and toys pop up in churches, schools, and offices. People give monetary donations to all kinds of charities. A notable transformation has occurred: poverty is suddenly no longer an individual problem, the responsibility for which lies solely with the individuals experiencing it. It has become society’s problem, one that we all have a responsibility to help address. So we donate toiletries, food, new or gently used coats and hats and gloves for people who can’t afford them. People generously use money or material resources from their own finite supply to give to those who have even less. It’s an important thing to do, and to discount the value of giving monetary and material donations is to ignore the immediate and tangible needs that some of those donations will meet for individuals and families who cannot meet them themselves.
After Christmas, that generous attitude seems to fade as quickly as the vitality of the Christmas tree left by the curb to fulfill its future destiny as garden mulch. Those in need are once again creators of poverty rather than its victims, and if they’re looking for handouts, they best look elsewhere or, even better, find a job.
How do we break this cycle? How do we drastically reorient our public perceptions of poverty and marginalization? How can we combat judgment and maintain that outpouring of sympathy? What else can we give to ever begin to address the profound injustices in the world?
We need to give more love.
It is so important now, perhaps more than ever, to understand what love is, specifically the kind of love that Dorothy Day and Dr. King talked about. Not romantic love, not the kind of love shared by friends, not even familial love. It is a love that allows you to put away your own assumptions about morality and normality, to suspend your judgments in favor of understanding, and to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and really see their perspective. It opens the door for you to love the people that society tells you not to love: the woman who has four children and is using SNAP and WIC benefits for food because she uses her income for drugs or alcohol instead of her children; the rightfully convicted murderer on death row; the men who planned and executed the horrific attacks in Beirut and Paris last month.
Isn’t that terrifying? How can we love people like that? We have good reasons not to love them: some of them take advantage of a system that is designed to help them. Some are a threat to safety. Some commit horrendous acts of violence, robbing innocent people of life and a sense of security, and on top of all that, they do so with the intention of filling the world with more fear and hatred. To understand and love these people is not to tolerate violence and dishonesty; on the contrary, it is to unleash the most powerful weapon we have against these things. The love we so desperately need to give is a love that allows you to not only see the world through a different pair of eyes and hear the world with a different set of ears, but to comprehend the world with a different kind of mind. It is the most devastating, destructive weapon we could ever use in the face of hatred and oppression.
This isn’t the kind of love that gives you the warm fuzzies. It’s difficult. It’s frightening. It’s uncomfortable. But it truly is the only solution. Hate takes no upfront effort and gives us permission to manufacture more bombs, build more prisons, and leave intact systems that keep the poor oppressed. Love is not some flimsy, feel-good excuse. Love is immensely, profoundly, unimaginably strong. It can drive out hate, it can dismantle the most unjust of systems, and it is and always will be the only solution, so give more of it in everything you do.
Liz Tate is a senior PPP major who serves on the Alternative Breaks Board, the culmination of an AB career that started her first year in Harlan, KY. Ask her about mountaintop removal–it is just one of the many things she is passionate about.