I'm pleased that the MetroWest Daily News (Framingham, MA) printed my response to the desire of the Framingham Board of Selectmen that the Salvation Army move out of downtown Framingham in the Saturday, July 31, 2010 issue of the MetroWest Daily News. (The story that the Salvation Army may NOT be welcome anymore in Downtown Framingham was also covered on Boston's CBS station WBZ channel 4 on July 29.) I'm sure many could have written more eloquently about the issue than I have, but I'm glad I had to oppportunity to make my voice heard! You can read the column by going to www.metrowestdailynews.com and clicking the link for OPINION; or you can essentially read what it has to say below:
Front page, Thursday, July 29,Metro West Daily News featured an article about the Framingham Board of Selectmen urging the Salvation Army to move out of its present location. In the past 15 years that issue has been raised almost as much as the issue of the downtown traffic congestion due to the railroad crossing.
The online version of the article brought over 50 comments. A couple of very pertinent points were brought up among the comments. One is that the Salvation Army property is private property and they should (within the limits of the law, of course) be able to do what they want on and with that property. The other is that the many poor and needy people the Salvation Army serves on a daily basis are not going to move with the Salvation Army if they were to move.
Admittedly, the fact that I'm an ordained minister probably gives me a bias here, but I've never seen the Salvation Army and its ministry downtown as being a bad thing. I've frankly been glad the Salvation Army was there.
I'm no "bleeding heart liberal" and I'm no "tax and spend liberal." I'm actually quite Republican and conservative. When former President George W. Bush talked about "faith based initiatives," I think organizations like the Salvation Army were a part of what he was talking about.
There was a powerful program on NBC's Dateline a few nights ago featuring a feeding program for the poor in a very economically disadvantaged town in southeast Ohio. One point brought out on that program is that it has become fashionable to hate the poor and to blame them for their own problems. In some cases, it may in fact, be their own fault for the plight they're in, but we're supposed to be a people that doesn't allow our neighbors to just "fall through the cracks" in times of crisis.
Jesus said, "For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always." (Mark 14:7)
In commenting on that portion a number of years ago, talk show host Gene Burns said that Jesus' statement was more of an indictment than a prophecy, and I think Burns was right.
I agree there are some logistical problems with the Salvation Army and its operation downtown. I've driven by there on Friday nights when A.A. is letting out. It's not uncommon for people to be pouring out into Howard Street and even Concord Street, and for there to be an atmosphere that could make visitors and passersby uncomfortable.
I know there have also been complaints about all the people congregating on the sidewalk waiting for the miracle kitchen to open or for the Salvation Army to open up in the morning.
There are probably ways to address these situations, but I don't think we need to throw the baby out with the bath water and turn our backs on the Salvation Army.
I think Charles Sheldon's classic book, "In His Steps" ought to be required reading for every one of our Framingham town officials and really for any Framingham resident perplexed about the issue of what do we do about the poor and needy in our midst. Warning: that book will challenge you and make you uncomfortable.
Indeed, it will be interesting to see what the recommendations of The Timothy Consulting Group from Michigan will be when they complete their four month study. I suspect Lt. Rebecca Kirk's comment that, "The program study may say we're exactly where we need to be," will in fact be what they will conclude.
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