By Clay

11 am on Sunday--When We Are Most Divided:  "Many African Americans in the city say part of the problem is that no one is listening to them. They describe themselves as virtually invisible other than to be viewed as a problem."

After Katrina I took a spring break trip to New Orleans to work at Desire Street Ministries (a wonderful organization and well worth your time to check out their work) in order to help clean up the 9th Ward.  I remember an elderly pastor talking with us one day in Desire Street's gym and asking us at what point we think America's racial division is at its worst.  He said it is at 11 am on a Sunday.  What I took away from that is we need to get out of our comfort zones and make an effort to understand each other.

This may not prevent the tragedy in Ferguson from occurring, but it at least gives a chance for people to believe in the process of justice.  Because that is fundamentally what is at issue here.  A lack of trust in the process to find justice and truth--no matter where it leads.

The article quotes individuals that say poverty and not race is the cause, but that is just oversimplifying things.  Sometimes those aren't mutually exclusive.  Every community needs to learn from this, and we need to get out and learn about each other.  We must be able to bridge the divides between communities--whether those divides are racial, geographic, or economic.  It may be as simple as attending a BBQ.  

Suburban Poverty and Ferguson:  "And as concentrated poverty climbs in communities like Ferguson, they find themselves especially ill-equipped to deal with impacts such as poorer education and health outcomes, and higher crime rates. In an article for Salon, Brittney Cooper writes about the outpouring of anger from the community, “Violence is the effect, not the cause of the concentrated poverty that locks that many poor people up together with no conceivable way out and no productive way to channel their rage at having an existence that is adjacent to the American dream.” 

Speaking of the American Dream:  "Vivid stories of those who overcome the obstacles of poverty to achieve success are all the more impressive because they are so much the exceptions to the rule. Contrary to the Horatio Alger myth, social mobility rates in the United States are lower than in most of Europe. There are forces at work in America now—forces related not just to income and wealth but also to family structure and education—that put the country at risk of creating an ossified, self-perpetuating class structure, with disastrous implications for opportunity and, by extension, for the very idea of America."

The right to rise, as Abraham Lincoln called it, may be in danger argues the Brookings Institution.  The numbers really do make for a compelling argument.  I wonder is there any ideal that is more important to being an American?

I'm less concerned about gaps in income inequality--as long as all incomes are rising.  The slow growth of incomes at the bottom of the payscale are more concerning.  This isn't the forum for talking about some of Brookings's recommendations on how to stop rising inequality and aristocracy, instead the focus for this organization needs to be on how to develop a skill set for the population we serve that will ensure the type of employment that will give someone the opportunity to rise. 

For many people there is a perception that the American Dream--the Horatio Alger story--is not going to happen for them.  But we will work to help those with the drive and desire to use their God-given talents to achieve self-sufficiency. 

Poverty in the 21st Century:  "Ask churches and nonprofit organizations what today’s poverty looks like, and this is it. It’s Isaiah’s father, Timothy Harrison, getting up before dawn every day to catch a ride with a co-worker to his warehouse job. It’s Isaiah’s mom, Toni Blackstone, looking for work — no qualifiers on the type of jobs she’ll take. And still, a family struggling for stability."

Crime and Poverty:  "What did surprise him was that when he looked at families which had started poor and got richer, the younger children—those born into relative affluence—were just as likely to misbehave when they were teenagers as their elder siblings had been. Family income was not, per se, the determining factor."

People don't like to talk about this, but culture and values are extremely important.  This isn't to say that your income means that you either do or don't have values that will lead to success.  We all know examples of wealthy families that fail/succeed at this and poor families that fail/succeed.  But we have to get past this modern sensibility that they aren't important.

Don't Forget Us:  "You don't see it at first, because it is hidden by the town's charming veneer, but “Van Wert is very much a town that has been left behind,” Davies said. He echoed a sentiment that President Obama addressed last week when talking about young black men in urban America.  A lot more of America than just its poor young urban blacks has been left behind, all of it equally disconnected, forgotten, frustrated. This chasm crosses racial lines, generations, rural, suburban and urban enclaves."

And by us I mean rural.  Rural whites, blacks, Hispanics, men, and women--they can all be forgotten.

Why You Shouldn't Hate Ice Buckets:  "If social pressure isn't enough to convince you to donate to ALS research, the heart-wrenching story of Lou Gehrig and the science behind the illness that shares his name should be."

As an organization trying to raise money, I'm so impressed by this campaign.  It is fascinating to watch people support this, and then recoil whether they are just tired of it or it conflicts with some moral position that they have--but this article is well-worth the read for more information on the disease, the recent breakthroughs, and of course the courage of the Iron Horse.

Blame Canada: "Simply put, the North American regional consensus boils down to a realization that the cost of fighting for any possible treasure on the other side of the border is patently ridiculous when it is simply easier and cheaper to exchange these things by trade; that two quite different systems of government can coexist perfectly well; and (for Canadians) that maintaining stability and security in the northern half of the continent ourselves means that the United States will not feel compelled to do it for us.

We may take all of this for granted, but we shouldn’t. It took those sophisticated Europeans another 150 years (and two of the bloodiest wars in history) to figure it out. Most regions of the world still haven’t."

I'm assuming the author is forgetting his South Park.  In other news, the Baldwin brothers are fine.