Joy - ROANOKE, Virginia
Entered on October 10, 2008

If you want to read tomorrow’s headlines today——come to the Rescue Mission.

Each year in my 22-year tenure as the director of the mission, I have witnessed the “canary-in-the-coal-mine” role the folks here play when our society is in danger.

Long before it was reported in the media, I experienced the reality of new drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis and MRSA in the mission’s clinic.

Before it made it to the evening news, I knew about the mortgage crisis, the costs of a punitive justice system, the difficult re-entry problems of military personnel and the surges in teenage alcoholism and pregnancy in the mission’s shelters.

I believe a Rescue Mission is a barometer of how society is thriving — or not.

Every social problem from domestic violence, to the abandonment of those with mental illness, to the growing numbers of the freshly unemployed can be cataloged beneath the umbrella term of “homelessness.” Although we wish it were not so, there is no single cause and there in no one person or group to blame.

Homelessness, in the staggering numbers we are currently witnessing, is one of the consequences of our society’s many poor investments.

So what do we do about all these problems?

Peter Drucker, known by many as the Father of Modern Management, wrote that “progress is obtained only by exploiting opportunities, not by solving problems.” Drucker understood that when you solve a problem, all you have accomplished is a return to normalcy. I believe problem-solving is important, but it should never be confused with progress.

Progress does not take you back to the way things were, but forward to a new place — a better place.

In all four of the canonical Gospels, Jesus was confronted with a problem. At the top of the story he had hungry people —- not a few, but thousands. At the end of the story, all had been fed. There were even leftovers!

It is what happened between the beginning and the end of the story that should capture our attention as we look over the precipice of the current economic crisis.

Jesus, with the help of a child, took what was (loaves and fishes) and shared it with all who were hungry. And then the miracle happened: All fed — lots left.

We in America have a very real crisis, but we also have a very real opportunity.

The crisis is not so much about money as it is about ignorance, self-will, arrogance and greed. The opportunity is not so much about bailouts as it is about creative thinking, authentic community, humility and faith.

I believe each one of us has an opportunity to do things differently. I believe we have an opportunity to invest in one another. We have an opportunity to offer what we have as an act of faith, believing God will once again complete the miracle: all fed — lots left.

Drucker and Jesus agreed —– the best way to predict the future is to create it!