Politically Incorrect Alert: The following opinion sounds mean and nasty.
I read with interest a front page story the other day from my home town paper, The Helena Independent Record. The story was about an elderly man living in squalor in his home. It was literally falling down around him; mice infested his furniture. The house sounded beyond wretched and truly unfit for human habitation. The neighbors were unhappy with his unusual fence….a string of dead refrigerators that circle the periphery of his property. BTW- He lives on Social Security.
Here’s the short version. A helpful bank person helped him get a loan for $20,000 for the renovations. Say what? I thought to myself.
The paragraph went on to extol the virtues of this loan designed for the impoverished. This is just getting better, I thought to myself. A loan for the impoverished?! Can someone say “The emperor has no clothes”?
The short answer to the story—a contractor came forward and undertook what he realized was a massive project beyond his original estimates (aren’t they all?) and footed the cost beyond what that loan would cover.
The neighbors are happy—the tacky “fence” is gone. (Except for the SIX fridges he keeps running in the house, the article said.) And of course this fellow is happy.
I am happy that this man has a safe habitation.
So now everyone is happy. But I couldn’t help but wonder that what this man really needs is some help accessing mental health care. And he needs to get into a rental situation—someone in such poverty can hardly be expected to maintain property upkeep (not to mention servicing a loan). Why the power costs alone to run those fridges is enough to make my checkbook whimper.
But of course no one mentioned that. Or how this fellow is going to repay the loan. (Hello? Failed mortgages?) True compassion has got to look past a quick fix. And the outcome has got to last longer than the day’s warm fuzzy headline. I’d bet my lunch money that if the paper follows up on this guy just six months from now his plight will be the same, if not worse.
I was thinking about this when we watched Extreme Makeover- Home Edition on Sunday night. It’s the one program we watch every Sunday night. But this one left me puzzled.
It took place in Louisiana and dealt with folks still suffering from Katrina aftermath. What made me scratch my head was the church they were rebuilding.
The building was clearly devastated from the hurricane. And the small congregation has been meeting at another location for the past three years.
When I looked at the building and then at the healthy, able-bodied pastor I wondered why they didn’t bother tearing the structure down themselves? Even if they had no insurance money to rebuild, certainly he could have rounded up a crew of worker bees to demolish the decaying structure. (Some of my fondest memories of fellowship revolved around building or renovation projects.)
Whatever happened to self reliance? And when did loans become a helpful tool for the poor?
It’s probably just a matter of time before Ty and the gang will show up on the property of that elderly fellow when his house is dilapidated again and the ersatz fence is back up. Only then they’ll be shouting, “Bus Driver! MOVE THAT FRIDGE!”
These are crazy days we live in.