At last night’s city council meeting a modified panhandlers ordinance passed. The council modified the proposed ordinance to limit the scope of the law to cover downtown, thereby sidestepping the issues of killing two of Spokane’s most beloved charity events — the The Guild Schools Kids for Kids Penny Drive and the the Firefighter's Fill the Boot. I knew the modified proposal would pass when over 100 people with their kids in tow stood up for the Guild School. Who could say no to my Tito and the rest of the special needs kids there?
The city council claimed that public safety was the reason for the ordinance, yet it seems more to be about beautifying the downtown area. While this may be smart for the economic growth, it is clearly unconstitutional. So the cover of safety was proclaimed the reason. Out of sight out of mind.
It made me wonder about how segregated we are as a country. The poor, rich and middle class live in different parts of the city. Since our lives are different with different concerns, it looks like we are divided. Yet we are not divided as much as we are living skewed lives — lives running in different paths and never touching. The only image about other classes comes from the media, which does not capture but caricatures. Are the wealthy all like the Kardashians?
A recent study found poor people give more to charities than do wealthy people, the biblical widow’s mite come to life. What it also found was that wealthy people who lived near and interacted more with poor gave more to charities than those who live in enclaves.
Why the Guild School was able to muster so much support was because it is one of the few places that all the classes interact. The children and the parents who are its clients run the spectrum of extremely poor to extremely wealthy. No class division to special needs kids. Here is one of the few places that all economic status can intermingle and share how tough and wondrous it is to raise a special needs child. We find we share more than divide us. We need to find more spaces where the poor, middle, and wealthy can engage and learn to be a city, a state and a nation. Out of mind, out of sight may be our biggest spiritual challenge and our biggest threat to our democracy.