IDS and the Tesco shoplifter

Iain Duncan Smith MP – former Conservative party leader – has resigned from his post as Work and Pensions Secretary in the British cabinet this week, following Wednesday’s Budget. He denounced £4bn of planned cuts to disability benefits as “indefensible”. Even though a past report had shown that one of the benefits in question was, in many cases, paying out more than was needed, for him these latest cuts were the last straw.

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According to the BBC, “Iain Duncan Smith discovered the Chancellor planned to offer cuts in Capital Gains Tax and was very unhappy that those tax cuts were to be offered to the better off, while he had been forced to make more welfare cuts prematurely, in his view … Iain Duncan Smith is understood to have said that the government “can’t keep taking money from the working poor … He also complained of pressure to “salami slice” welfare, saying the latest cuts were a “compromise too far” in a Budget that benefits higher earning taxpayers. ” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-35848687)

This issue cuts to the heart of how we treat those who are physically and financially worse-off in our society. Jesus once said, “The poor you will always have with you,” (Matthew 26:11). So do we just leave it to the government, or do we do what we can ourselves to alleviate the sufferings of others?

On the same day we heard about the surprise resignation of IDS, the story also came to light of someone who took the initiative to help a starving family in a surprising way.

I will let Andy Wells, who originally posted the news on Tumblr, tell the story: “A dad-of-three who was caught shoplifting food from a Tesco store in Bukit Mertajam, Malaysia, was stunned when instead of calling the police, the store gave him a job.

“The anonymous 31-year-old was stopped by security at the store, who discovered around £5 worth of food on him. But rather than call the police, store manager Radzuan Ma’asan decided to give the man some money and a job so that he could feed his children without having to resort to stealing.

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Radzuan Ma’asan – store general manager. (Pic: CEN)

“He said: “The man’s situation really touched our hearts. We visited his relative’s house. It was so empty and poor. He was not a regular thief. When we questioned him, he immediately confessed, saying that he stole the fruits and drinks because his son was hungry. In my 23 years of experience in the retail line, I had never come across thieves who admitted to their crime so easily.”

“The man was struggling to make ends meet after quitting his job when his wife fell into a coma while she was giving birth. He had attempted to take some fruit and drink for his young children before being stopped by security.

Tesco has yet to decide what type of job to offer the man, but have already given him money to help cover his current expenses – including enrolling his son into school.” http://andyjwells.tumblr.com/

This, to me, is a real good news story, and a 21st Century example of what Jesus would probably have done in that situation. When we see someone in trouble, are we quick to point the finger or are we willing to explore the roots of the problem? We can help each other in our society if we try, and many do – if only all those in authority were quick to do the same.

 

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Why, oh why?

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It’s with hearts tinged with sadness that we draw closer to Christmas. We were all shocked by yesterday’s tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut when, after killing his mother, a lone gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School and shot 26 people dead, including 20 children. Our sympathies go out very much to the bereaved families. Dannel Malloy, the state governor, said yesterday, “We’ll do whatever we can to overcome this event.” But how can something like this be overcome, how can good come out of something so evil?

Darrell Scott’s 17 year-old daughter Rachel was the first student to be killed at the Columbine High School shootings in 1999. Speaking yesterday to Fox News Darrell said, “We made a choice not to be angry or bitter, but to celebrate Rachel’s life.” In memory of Rachel he set-up a foundation called “Rachel’s Challenge”. It has seen seven school shootings and over 500 suicides prevented through its work. It’s website describes it as “a series of student empowering programs and strategies … to combat bullying and allay feelings of isolation and despair by creating a culture of kindness and compassion. The programs are based on the writings and life of Rachel Scott. … Rachel left a legacy of reaching out to those who were different, who were picked on by others, or who were new at her school. Shortly before her death she wrote, “I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go.””

Rachel’s father Darrell went on to say, “The answers are long term. They’re not just a knee-jerk reaction on gun control or more laws, … but we have got to be a kinder nation. We have got to take time to listen to one another, to love one another, to be role models to these kids.”

As Peter, a follower of Jesus, once wrote: “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:8-9)

This is not just true for American society, but for us all. For the sake of our children, our world needs to wake up and look at the society that we have created. For instance, there is a movie currently being promoted in the UK about a serial killer. How can this be entertainment? We need to question what motivates us as a society; but most of all we need to show love, acceptance and encouragement to our young people, that they might grow up as a loving and integrated community, from which no one will feel excluded. Who knows the difference we personally can make this Christmas? As Rachel wrote: No one knows “how far a little kindness can go.”

To read one Sandy Hook mum’s story click here.