Culture: May 2006 Archives

I think Dan Paden has this exactly right:

The real issue when it comes to the hard-core homeless is this: a sense of independence carried to an almost pathological extreme, such that eventually, one has no friends, no relatives, no support network, or at least none of these that are willing to help. Imagine, you who belong to a thriving church, who thrive on close family connections, being out of work and not having anyone who will tip you off to an opportunity in their company, no one who will recommend you to anyone, no one who will take phone calls for you, no one who will so much as let you sleep in their garage while you beat the streets looking for work--and that you'd rather have it that way than put up with the way that they want you to do things, rather than have to listen to their advice.

Social capital may be more important to survival and success than financial capital. I think about all the help we've had over the years from family, friends, fellow church members, and political allies.

For example, we have in our home an impressive amount of baby clothing, equipment, and toys for which we didn't pay. Some of them were gifts, but most of them are loaners. There's a $200 baby hammock -- never would have spent the money for it, but someone in our church had one, their baby had grown out of it, and they were happy to lend it to us for a few months. When our baby has grown out of it, we'll give it back, and the owners will likely pass it along to another church family with a new baby.

You don't get that kind of help unless other people feel they know you and can trust you, and you build that kind of knowledge and trust by being faithfully and consistently involved with other people over a long period of time, helping others with what you have to offer.

In order to build social capital, you have to do some things even when you don't feel like doing them. You have to avoid speaking your mind when it might be hurtful. You have to try not to burn bridges, even when you really want to. And when you do screw up and burn bridges, you try to rebuild them, even if it means eating your words.

I'm reminded of C. S. Lewis's depiction of the Grey Town in The Great Divorce. Because its residents could build a new place to live just by willing it into being, people would part company over the most minor offences, moving further and further away from each other. No interdependence, no community, complete autonomy. (The Grey Town, as it turned out, was Hell.)

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This page is a archive of entries in the Culture category from May 2006.

Culture: March 2006 is the previous archive.

Culture: July 2006 is the next archive.

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