TOGETHER, my wife and I form one of President Bush's "thousand points of light." The church we attend is another.
There is hardly a day when the mail doesn't bring an appeal from some organization engaged in feeding the hungry and caring for the homeless: the Maryland Food Committee, the Salvation Army, Paul's Place (a favorite charity of ours located in what was once called Pigtown but now is known as Washington Village). All are worthy. And we do what we can to help John T.Starrthem in their work -- not as much as we would like but as much as we can afford.
Just about every day the telephone at the church rings. Someone needs food or money for the rent or medical expenses or some other pressing need. This is in addition to a modest outreach program which goes toward the support of organizations much like or the same as those named above. But as with our personal help, the church's help is limited.
Add these points of light to others in the city and throughout the country, and the lights glow, if dimly. With growing unemployment and reduced income for many who are employed, the agencies that provide food and shelter are taxed beyond their capability, especially when giving to them has been reduced, no doubt as a result of the deepening recession.
What this adds up to is that more help is needed from governments -- federal, state and local, particularly federal, which has been reduced drastically during the past 10 years. And it does not look as though this will be forthcoming, what with the increasing annual deficit. Heroic measures are needed, and while the administration employs heroic measures in going to war, it is less anxious to act heroically in supporting programs that improve the lives of people.
Yet, this is one of the prime functions of government. Indeed, it is one of the prime reasons for government. When people moved from a nomadic life into the more sedentary life of agriculture and gathered into communities, governments were instituted -- to protect the communities from aggressors intent on pillage, but also to protect against the domestic enemies of hunger and homelessness. Food and shelter were shared. Those who were hungry were fed, those who were homeless were housed. After all, these unfortunates were members of the community.
We have seen that the thousand scattered points of lights do not do the job as it needs to be done. In addition to the lights of people, churches, volunteer organizations and others who care, what is needed is a beacon of hope and care furnished by the government. Those in charge need to be continually reminded that this -- the care of their people, especially those who cannot care for themselves -- is one reason they were chosen to be leaders.
John T. Starr writes from Baltimore.