Jer and I got back from Jamaica late Monday. Tuesday and Wednesday I caught up on a bit of work at the Ranch and Thursday we went to Houston to hear a lecture by Fr. Robert Sirico, President and Founder of the Acton Institute.
That these events happened so close together is providential.
The mission of the Acton Institute is to defend free enterprise not only as the best, but the only, hope for material comfort and political freedom for the people of our world. Free enterprise alone sets the stage for the creative flowering of art, technology, literature, and the true exercise of moral choice.
I know many who read this statement wish to debate this premise, but the Acton Institute does that so much better than I that I beg you to go to their site and read their materials and arguments with an open mind.
Suffice it to say that the long-term solution for what I saw in Jamaica has to be free enterprise resting on a firm foundation of moral and ethical values.
In our end-of-day discussions, we touched on that as I explained to my co-volunteers the tremendous effort we put in at Down Home Ranch to ensure that our Ranchers have meaningful choices over what happens in their lives.
More than once I muttered sadly, “I guess it boils down to the fact that countries exhibit about as much compassion as they can afford.”
And that is the bald, ugly truth. The Brothers of the Missionaries of the Poor work ceaselessly to ensure that the people we met and briefly cared for have the basics of life in a society where the vast majority of people have very little more than that and many have much, much less.
Jamaica is ruled by thugs and gangs. The daily newspaper is little more than a catalog of mayhem from the preceeding 24 hours and stories of the devastated famililes left behind.
I met a man from Canada at the airport on our last day. He owns a health-food business in Vancouver and was on a scouting expedition to Jamaica wishing to start a large farm to help supply his company with product. He estimated needing 75-100 employees.
“But I don't know,” he said, shaking his head. “The corruption, the graft, the violence. I would have to hire so much security just to do business. I just don't know if it's workable.
“I really hope I can find a way,” he added. “The Jamaican people are so full of life, so energetic, so smart. But I just don't know if I have the expertise to do business in these circumstances.”
What does that have to do with the 550 people served by the Missionaries of the Poor? Everything.
Absolutely everything. Those 550 people are in the custody of the Brothers because their families can barely feed themselves, and have no means to care for a person with disabilities or mental illness.
Economics has way more to do with the choices we make on a daily basis than we are comfortable admitting.
The Brothers understand this, coming as they do from countries where there is rampant poverty. They have chosen to be Christ's hands in ministering to the poor. They have chosen poverty themselves.
Please say a prayer for them today, and for Jamaica.