Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ghetto Land

"People say that we should be glad for what we have.
Tell me, would you be happy in Village Ghetto Land?"          
Stevie Wonder, "Village Ghetto Land", from the album "Songs in the Key of Life" 1976

I think my first brush with empathy came in 1969 when Elvis Presley sang about a life gone bad "In the Ghetto", to my mind an entirely American phenomena.  Stevie Wonder picked up the theme on his "Songs in the Key of Life" album in 1976 when he describes the relative poverty of "Village Ghetto Land."  It saddened me even as a child and as a teenager that people actually lived this way.  I couldn't imagine it.  More truthfully, perhaps I didn't see it.

Notwithstanding that these places exist not only in America but mere blocks from my front door, I am more disheartened by the ghetto of hopelessness in which so many live.  This hopelessness is typified not just by neglected property standards, trash on the street and foul mouths.  It's evident in the lack of respect people pay to each other.  You have to have respect for yourself before you can ever spare it for another, and I believe it is the most arrogant, thoughtless and uncaring of people, no matter their income level who are living in a ghetto of self loathing.

Perhaps, just maybe, it's because so many people can't accept that anyone loves them.  They believe themselves to be unlovable for whatever reason; their sins, their circumstance, their very being.  The thought that God loves them is worse than laughable, it's inconceivable.  They live in a poverty of hope.

And yet, speaking of inconceivable, it's to these that Jesus came to serve.  He's standing right beside them, us, in the depth of our poverty whether we experience it in a hovel or in several thousand square feet in the best part of town.

Easy for me to say.  Is there reason for joy in Village Ghetto Land?

Yes.  Happy Christmas.

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