Shortly after I earned my Associates degree in 1986, I was assigned to work as the Crime Prevention Officer for my Department. It was a community-oriented assignment that included a public speaking circuit, school safety programs, and Neighborhood Watch. For me there was a distinct disconnect from the rigors of patrol. Instead of handling complaints and dealing with unsavory and hostile people, I met a generous, responsive, and supportive citizenry who actually liked their police department and the community they lived in. Where had all these folks been hiding? The answer was simple—they were the greater population of producers, workers, volunteers, and law-abiding citizens who were most often the witnesses to and victims of the lesser nonproductive population.
By using the term nonproductive, I include those who found obeying the law a nuisance and breaking it a challenge; who saw opportunities in ill-gotten gain; who were preoccupied with pursuing self-medication and getting high; who usually lost interest in higher education by age twelve; who generally made a habit of preying upon and intimidating the weak and defenseless; who discovered making babies with multiple female partners out of wedlock a viable means of fast cash, by taxing the government once a month.
My experiences working with the community did not uncover the ideological class-warfare politicians often touted as existing between the haves and have-nots. Instead, such experiences uncovered the attitude and mindset of the doers versus the don’t-doers—those with class and those who were lacking. There was plenty of war being waged on the streets, which had nothing to do with the economy or status of healthcare. It was classless warfare in my estimation. Those who lacked class waged war against those who possessed it. Those with class donated time and resources to those who hoped to attain it legitimately. Those who had no class begrudged those who did, not necessarily because of socio-economic standing, but because it was generally the path of least resistance. Working has always been more time-consuming than idleness. Idleness lent itself to laziness, lack of resources, and resentment. Rather than work, for some opportunism turned to criminal intent; taking something someone else worked hard for was easier than working for it for oneself. And there was always a one hundred percent profit margin with theft as long as one never got caught stealing.
True class is not a measure of wealth; it is about honor, duty, and service. It is every citizen’s duty to obey and honor the law in consideration of others. Yet service requires us to look beyond ourselves to meet the needs of others. It often means stepping out of our comfortable quarters and take risks by entering the trenches to help those trapped there. Service generally requires selflessness, sacrifice, and steadfastness to the mission at hand with a goal in mind. I was fortunate to have been raised and taught that honor, duty, and service were the highest traditions of being an American. Today I see it reflected most clearly in our military personnel.
Years ago, I met many hardworking and law-abiding people (as well as slackers) on all levels of the socio-economic ladder while I worked my assignments in Upland, California. As my tasks changed, I moved from community-relations, to the schools, to handling juvenile delinquents, to working the streets as a gang detective. Though my assignments varied, the clientele remained fairly static. In other words, the same families who had little or no interest in their kids attending and learning in school were the same families I saw in court pleading with judges for leniency for their budding law-breakers. Their family routines later included visitations at juvenile hall, the county jail, and State prison. And quite often, the parents of those familiar law-breakers ended up raising the children of their incarcerated children, only to proliferate the population of nonproductive citizens. And many of those who ended up in prison came from well-to-do families with large incomes, abundant resources, and no class.
Perhaps the matter of class boils down to the proper incentive (or lack thereof.) Families who have much in the way of resources, yet do not demand much from their children in good citizenship should not assume good citizens will abound among their offspring. The same is true of poor parents who lack resources yet instill in their children the values of hard work, respect, and discipline. Could they anticipate their children would exude class by raising the expectation-bar so high? Absolutely. Good citizens flourish regardless of economic station.
Unfortunately in this modern era of pseudo-social engineering, the U.S. government continues to interpose itself legislatively between those who do work and those who won’t, appearing as a magnanimous arbiter of social justice and the greater good. Instead of easing burdens on the average taxpaying family, our classless government just piles on more national debt with compounding interest. Rather than offering incentives for employers to hire more workers and allowing the economy to regain its feet, this government seems content to dole out large sums of cash in assistance for anyone not working, whether or not they are willing. Now there is a new nonproductive population (which has nothing to do with lack of class) that finds itself unable to work because of failed public policy. I wonder if there is any correlation between extending unemployment insurance and the expanding problem of obesity in this country?
Where Scripture is concerned, the incentive-bar was set at a very basic level. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Thessalonians (2 Thessalonians 3:10, NIV) said this: ‘For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”‘ But how can one eat in today’s economy when there is not enough available work? Don’t worry! The government is working on it.
Paul’s rule was not a tax imposed by a government to redistribute wealth from one group in order to give it to another (a common practice under socialism.) His was a common sense application (based on the understanding of human nature) in a community called The Church. Paul’s rule implied that all able-bodied people in that community would work in some way in order to share in the collective harvest. Work, whatever it entailed then, was not idleness. Anyone able to do something to contribute in work did so with the incentive of being allowed to eat from the shared labors of everyone else. It did not mean that those who were incapable of work were left to starve. Faith invests in hope, and hope grows in love for one another. The love of God is unfailing and so charity gives in time of need from little or plenty.
Charity has always allowed for the provision of those in greatest need offered by those with generous hearts. Government programs and policies may mean well, but charity comes from the heart of the individual. Charity begins at home and finds feet through greater works of The Church. That is where the matter of charity rests for the greatest good. Doing the right thing includes giving in charity to those who cannot do for themselves.
God has class. God gives generously. God’s policies never fail.
Honor, duty, service.
(copyright 2012, Gregory Allen Doyle)