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Your Views: A compassionate society will not ignore its poor
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As fiscal conservatives begin to exert more and more influence over the future of our state and nation, I pray they will remember to show compassion to the working poor, to children, the elderly, the disabled and the handicapped, all those who will never achieve the American dream; not because they're unwilling to work hard, but because they simply cannot compete in our modern economy.

For various reasons beyond their control, some will always be at a disadvantage. We all know who they are. They are in our families, our churches and our communities. Often we refuse to acknowledge the reality of their plight, but the weak hand they were dealt is real, nevertheless.

Wealth is relative and we cannot all be rich. "The poor will always be among you" — not because of what they do or don't do, but because of how societies function. This is not to say that children can't overcome their circumstances; many do. But many more cannot, and their quality of life depends almost entirely on the compassion of others.

We can quote statistics, but the bottom line is this: Half the world is worried about what they will eat tomorrow; they are poor. Half the world is NOT worried about what they will eat tomorrow; they are rich. And yes, you may never see them, but there are many in Gainesville who worry about what they or their children will eat tomorrow.

Poverty is not just the result of laziness or bad choices. It is just as often the result of bad timing, bad luck, bad genes, bad parents and bad systems. We can all identify people who deserve their poverty, but for everyone like that, there are just as many who are poor due to no fault of her own. As imperfect as they are, we must not dismantle the economic safety nets that took decades to put in place.

The wealthy who have the ability to create jobs and grow our economy must understand this and be committed to the common good of all people. If not, they can just as easily create jobs in other countries where regulations and the cost of doing business is much lower. Or they can take advantage of high unemployment and refuse to pay fair wages and provide fair benefits, thereby continuing to shrink the middle class. By doing so, they only enhance their own quality of life, not anyone else's.

The same greed that makes capitalism an effective economic approach can also make it immoral if that greed is not controlled and if those in power have no compassion for the rest of society and no willingness to share their good fortune. Wealth only trickles down if the wealthy want it to.

A beloved Pope once said, "A society will be judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members." May we always treat our weakest members with mercy and compassion.

Alan Shope