I’m really now just starting to understand the meaning of John Bradford’s quote. For a long time I dismissed it as not relevant to my life since I had no real religious beliefs and I got hung up on the God part until I realized that the phrase could just as well read: There, but for circumstances, go I.
Then it all kind of clicked. The meaning, to me, is a call to expanded empathy; an understanding of life and its vagaries. A prayer, offered quickly, to the gods of circumstance and uncertainty to pass you by. A gentle reminder to me that kindness and compassion are actions, not words. That there are so many that are less fortunate and in more desperate straits than me. A hope that should I ever need to depend on the safety net that I won’t be subjected to scorn and ridicule and have my integrity questioned by welfare vigilantes. That I’ll be able to retain that most mundane of parental responsibility: what to feed my children.
There, but for the grace of God, go I.
It's a shame that so many people are willing to see those in need as criminals; scum that are just waiting to take advantage of hardworking decent folks. Living large on lobster and driving Cadillac’s to their crack parties. Like the poor and underemployed are wayward children who need to be chastised and embarrassed by everyone they encounter for their own good since “that’s my money they’re using!”
Taxes are necessary. They are not evil. They are the price of admission to civilization. They do many things. They pave roads, they build and staff schools, they plow streets, they keep order, and they fund wars. They also provide a safety net should any member of our society – for whatever reason – stumble. They are there to provide some relief. That’s what taxes do.
We, as a society, pay them. The government administers them. We reap the benefit of schools and roads and police and firemen and a safety net. More gets done with the pooled resources than we could achieve alone. We have a voice in how they are administrated. We invoke that voice at every election. That is how we are heard. We do not, individually, get to walk up to those who utilize these services and berate them and scold them.
Because if that’s how we’re going to do things now I have a whole lot of stuff I don’t want my taxes purchasing.
I'm shocked and saddened to see how much support the baker from the Braintree Farmer’s Market is getting. Honestly, I'm sad for our future when this type of public shaming is not only encouraged but applauded. I'm not even going to argue the merits of whether pie is a necessity or a treat. This is bigger than pie; this is about dignity and who is allowed to have it. It’s about compassion and kindness. It's about a hand-up, that we - as a society - offer to those less fortunate. It's about reaching down, with a smile, and saying "Here, let me help you."
All while thinking, "There, but for the grace of God, go I."
My intent while writing this was to highlight the fact that the majority of those who require assistance are not "gaming the system" that they are, in fact, our neighbors and friends and deserve basic human kindness.