Category Archives: Issues

Class and Credit

The always fabulous Michigan Radio folks recently did a great series called Culture and Class, much of which I was able to catch on the way to or from work. Most of the pieces were about much more than income, as class truly is.

One thing I am aware of this week is the relationship between the privilege that comes with class and credit.

When we were newly married and Aaron was still finishing undergrad, we were able to buy a house because even though we didn’t have money, we had credit. When we (predictably enough) got in over our heads and ran out of cash, we had credit (cards, or later home equity). And if the bank wouldn’t give us that credit and we needed it, a family member could co-sign for it, or I could get a loan from the “Bank of Dad,” as he calls it. My family never would have let me derail my education or long-term financial well-being, because they had the power to help me. The same  goes for most of my friends. We’ve all at times complained about being “poor,” but being poor means not having that safety net.

Being poor means you don’t have money.

You don’t have credit.

You don’t have family co-signers (because, hello, they’re poor too!).

You don’t have a Bank of Dad.

And (Christian) educational institutions should stop assuming everyone does. If you really want some diversity–of class among other things–you have to stop pretending everyone is coming from the same place. You have to consider what it would be like to walk into your institution without the privileges most of the students have. And if you realize, or they tell you, that this lack of privilege is holding them back from participating, you have to step up and fill the gap! That doesn’t mean you have to hand them everything, but you do have to give them a tool that fits in their hand. Yes, that is your responsibility. I see you have some lovely, plaque-adorned sculptures which certainly reduced someone’s tax liability–could you not be troubled to go ask those people to be someone’s last resort, or at least their stinking co-signer?


Pardon my rant. It’s not for me. It’s for the whatever percent.


World AIDS Day 2009: 33 Million Reasons to Care

December 1 is World AIDS Day. Our world is sick. Our brothers and sisters and parents and children are dying. The Body of Christ–We have AIDS. Take the World Vision AIDS Test to see how much you know about the global crisis.

  • Almost 35 million people are living with HIV/AIDS.
  • 2 million people died of AIDS-related illness in 2008.
  • 2008 saw 2.7 million new infections, with 1.9 million of these in sub-Saharan Africa. (Note: “Sub-Saharan Africa” means all of Africa except Northern Africa, so it includes Ethiopia, where my daughter is from.)
  • 6,000 children are orphaned by AIDS every day. Worldwide, 15 million children have lost parents to AIDS; this number is expected to climb to 25 million.
  • Every 14 seconds, a child loses a parent to AIDS.

Here in the U.S., where HIV is now considered a chronic condition rather than a death sentence, these numbers mean so much that to us they too often mean nothing. Who do we know who lost their parents? What town have we visited that has been socially, economically, physically decimated by the death of 10 percent of its population to one disease? No one and nowhere. But in Africa–and increasingly in India, China, the Carribean, and Eastern Europe–these aren’t numbers. They are names. They are faces. They are memories. And they are hopes and dreams that might have been.

They are counting on us.

Of the 15 million orphan-reasons to care about World AIDS Day, an estimated 4 to 6 million live in Ethiopia. Though to our knowledge our daughter did not lose her parents to AIDS, in many ways they are all AIDS orphans–for without this plague on the land would be millions more to raise the nation out of poverty, to grow crops, to give health care and education, to take all these children into Ethiopian homes to be loved and cared for. But there are too many.

I highly recommend There Is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene, a journalist who has added two Ethiopian children to her family. She writes of her reaction when in 2000 she encountered the UN statistics of 12 million AIDS orphans in sub-Saharan Africa:

Who was going to raise twelve million children? That’s what I suddenly wanted to know. . . . Who was going to buy twelve million pairs of sneakers that light up when you jump? Backpacks? Toothbrushes? Twelve million pairs of socks? Who will tell twelve million bedtime stories? Who will quiz twelve million children on Thursday nights for their Friday-morning spelling tests? Twelve million trips to the dentist? Twelve million birthday parties?

Who will wake in the night in response to eighteen million nightmares?

Who will offer grief counseling to twelve, fifteen, eighteen, thirty-six million children? Who will help them avoid lives of servitude or prostitution? Who will pass on to them the traditions of culture and religion, of history and government, of craft and profession? Who will help them grow up, choose the right person to marry, find work, and learn to parent their own children?

Well, as it turns out, no one. Or very few. There aren’t enough adults to go around. Although in the Western industrialized states HIV/AIDS has become a chronic condition rather than a death sentence, in Africa a generation of parents, teachers, principals, physicians, nurses, professors, spiritual leaders, musicians, poets, bureaucrats, coaches, farmers, bankers, and business owners are being erased. . . .
Adoption is not the answer to HIV/AIDS in Africa. Adoption rescues few. Adoption illuminates by example: these few once-loved children—who lost their parents to preventable diseases—have been offered a second chance at family life in foreign countries; like young ambassadors, they instruct us. From them, we gain impressions about what their age-mates must be like, the ones living and dying by the millions, without parents, in the cities and villages of Africa. For every orphan turning up in a northern-hemisphere household—winning the spelling bee, winning the cross-country race, joining the Boy Scouts, learning to rollerblade, playing the trumpet or the violin—ten thousand African children remain behind alone.

“Adoption is a last resort,” I would be told in November 2005 by Haddush Halefom, head of the Children’s Commission under Ethiopia’s Ministry of Labor, the arbiter of intercountry adoptions, “Historically, close kinship ties in our country meant that there were very few orphans: orphaned children were raised by their extended families. The HIV/AIDS pandemic has destroyed so many of our families that the possibility no longer exists to absorb all our Ethiopian orphans.

“I am deeply respectful of the families who care for our children,” he said. “But I am so very interested in any help that can be given to us to keep the children’s first parents alive. Adoption is good, but children, naturally, would prefer not to see their parents die.”

I did not adopt from Africa to stand on a soapbox. I have in fact had my soapbox enough years now that I may even have learned a bit about where I should and should not set it (a child’s crib is no place for it). But I am compelled by my love of my child to remember, to consider, to speak for and to help those equally precious who have so far been left behind in her country and around the world. And so as I perhaps have your eyes on my words and your heart on my child: yes, I will speak of AIDS, I will connect the dots, I will tell the truth on World AIDS Day: Where you live should not decide whether you live or whether you die. I, you, we can make a difference.

Beneath the noise
Below the din
I hear your voice
It’s whispering
“In science and in medicine
I was a stranger
You took me in”…

I’ve had enough of romantic love

I’d give it up, yeah, I’d give it up
For a miracle, miracle drug
A miracle drug



Stat of the day:

Nearly half of all U.S. children and 90 percent of black youngsters will be on food stamps at some point during childhood, and fallout from the current recession could push those numbers even higher, researchers say. . . .

The authors say it’s a medical issue pediatricians need to be aware of because children on food stamps are at risk for malnutrition and other ills linked with poverty. . . .

The analysis is in line with other recent research suggesting that more than 40 percent of U.S. children will live in poverty or near-poverty by age 17; and that half will live at some point in a single-parent family. Also, other researchers have estimated that slightly more than half of adults will use food stamps at some point by age 65.

Source: AP/San Francisco Chronicle

In a sense this isn’t surprising, and I’m glad the safety net of food stamps even exists, but the 90 caught my attention. What are we doing? Will we ever close these gaps?