On the Corner
The fourth little piggy
by Robert Docter, Editor-In-Chief –
This little piggy stayed home;
This little piggy had roast beef;
This little piggy had none;
And this little piggy said,
“Wee—Wee—Wee,” all the way home.
As I was sitting with Morgan, our youngest grandchild, his bath towel still wrapped snugly around him, I grabbed a foot and, wiggling his big toe, I started to recite this ancient children’s rhyme––wiggling each toe in succession. I don’t know the rhyme’s age or derivation. But what I do know is that the fourth little piggy has troubled me most of my life. This little piggy had none.
I’m not pleased when some have much and others have “none.”
I frankly believe that this “troubling” is why I am in the Army today. The Salvation Army helps people who have nothing––no food, no friends, no house, and very little will to survive. It is an “action oriented church” in the image of Jesus and his brother, James. It takes the message of loving one’s neighbor to heart. But even more, it acts on that love.
This Army combines an individualistic value with a collaborative value as it makes me personally and individually responsible for my own salvation, but challenges me to be involved with helping build a church where the membership collaborates together in caring for those who have neither physical resources nor salvation.
We have actualized Booth’s and Frank Smith’s metaphor of a fallen cab horse, lifted to its feet, ministered to in whatever ways were needed, fed, housed, and then returned to dignity with meaningful work. That’s the model of social service delivery in our programs today. It takes a considerable period of time to “minister” to some of the “cab horses” we serve in our programs, for we are not satisfied with rescue alone––although many excellent programs achieve only this. We want to “change the man” by facilitating rehabilitation––learning to live with integrity––with completeness. We want to lift the body and soul of humanity from the depths of darkness to a growing relationship with God while at the same time, lifting the person physically and psychologically to greater self-worth and well-being.
What is needed in these kinds of programs is passion––people who believe and feel strongly about their beliefs. That’s a great strength of the Army. We are a compassionate people.
Looking ahead to 2020––it seems to me that the job is getting tougher as public and private economic policies shift to bring much greater prosperity to some while, like that fourth little piggy, others fall further behind.
It just doesn’t seem fair to me. It’s not just.
The word “justice” has always intrigued me as it did Booth. It has within it aspects of “fairness”––being free from bias or injustice, not playing favorites. I’ve also equated justice with “getting what is deserved”––sometimes a punishment and sometimes a reward. So “economic justice,” to me, means a fair and just distribution of resources within an economic system for all. Everyone deserves a safety net for basic needs.
I don’t think we have economic justice in America today. The official poverty rate in 2002 indicates that 12.1 percent of our total population live in poverty. Over 16.7 percent of America’s children live there. There also appears a large difference when the poverty rate is measured by race. About 8 percent of the white population lives in poverty, while almost 24 percent of the poor are African American and almost 22 percent are Latino. These data don’t imply economic justice to me. What I see in these data are indicators of systemic failure in the major institutions of society––government, schools, work––and the church.
If we’re going to be able to lift the cab horses of the future, we better be studying trend lines of the present and start working to recognize how these trends will demand an Army able to adapt to that change.
The Army in Britain reported their findings on many important questions in their little book, The Paradox of Prosperity. They asked the kinds of questions we need to ask and discovered some startling data. We need to commission some similar studies here.
We can all agree that compassion is good, but informed compassion is even better