Everybody’s business

Published 10:41 pm Tuesday, May 15, 2012

There’s an old saying to the effect that “Everybody’s business is nobody’s business,” and it means that the things for which we expect everybody will take responsibility usually wind up being taken care of by nobody. The point is that each of us should be prepared to step in and lend a hand when we see something that needs to be done.

A group of Suffolk churches is taking that old aphorism to heart with the formation of the Coalition Against Poverty in Suffolk. The organization got its start when the pastors of four Suffolk churches realized that they were seeing some of the same people come back to their churches month after month in search of assistance.

“It seems to me we were putting a Band-Aid on arterial bleeding,” said the Rev. Les Ferguson, the rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church and one of the group’s founding members. “We want to make sure people get the assistance they need and help them most effectively.”

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The group has grown to include about 25 churches from all around the city. But the goal has remained unchanged: Find ways to help people fix their recurring problems, rather than just patching them up every month. By pooling their resources, the church leaders hope to help more people more effectively and efficiently than they could hope to help working alone.

It’s easy for many Americans to see poverty as a problem in need of a government solution. Government programs dating back more than half a century have taught many of us to look to Uncle Sam for welfare, for emergency assistance, for unemployment benefits and for any number of other social safety nets. But in expecting the government, funded by taxpayers — in other words, everybody — to take care of the poor, we have lost sight of the moral imperative for each of us to help look out for those who are unable to look out for themselves.

The churches participating in the Coalition Against Poverty in Suffolk have embraced that imperative. And considering the scriptural command to “Love thy neighbor,” it’s appropriate for them to have done so. We are eager to see the kinds of solutions these faith-based efforts will produce. And we’re pleased to see folks in Suffolk once again taking up the standard for their neighbors.