Poverty in the United States
Poverty in the United States
The Risk of Dependency
To relieve the misfortunes of our fellow creatures is concurring with the Deity; 'tis godlike; but if we provide encouragement for laziness, and supports for folly, may it not be found fighting against the order of God and Nature, which perhaps has appointed want and misery as the proper punishments for, and cautions against as well as necessary consequences of idleness and extravagancy? Whenever we attempt to amend the scheme of Providence, and to interfere with the government of the world, we had need be very circumspect lest we do more harm than good.
- Benjamin Franklin 36
Pastor Susan Lyon of Care Placement Services
A man and his wife living day-to-day were among our first clients seeking temporary housing. At the time I was working for a newly created nonprofit employment agency called Care Placement Services (CPS).
A day after opening our doors, we got a job interview for the man. It fit his skills perfectly. To our surprise he never showed up for the interview. Instead he had gone to help his son work on a truck. Now we had egg on our face, which didn't bother him much. Over the next few weeks, we tried in vain to get him to go back to work.
We quit trying. I wish I could say this was an isolated incident, but it was more the rule than the exception in our newly formed organization. In fact, of the first 40 people in the door, we didn't place a single one of them in a job. And that was not because they had no skills or that there were no jobs out there. We could have gotten jobs for every one of them. So what was wrong?
The head of CPS was Pastor Susan Lyon, a very skilled employment matchmaker. She formed CPS because she wanted to address the root problem of poverty - unemployment. She had great connections with employers and was a skilled counselor in teaching interview skills and writing résumés. But she also had a big heart - one that could come only from personal experience.
But life has a way of pitching unexpected curve balls.
On a spring day, April 28, 1982, Lyon's life was changed forever. She was hit by a passing truck while walking along a road in North Denver. She nearly died and probably should have. A doctor at the hospital attributed her recovery to divine intervention, which actually made it into the hospital records. Lyon says that was the day her life serving Christ began. After eight months Lyon left the hospital. Having to support two boys, ages three and nine, as a single parent, Lyon had her work cut out for her. Her husband had abandoned her after the accident because he didn't want to be married to someone with heavy financial burdens and physical disabilities. During that difficult time, Lyon was supported solely by friends. But it was hardly enough to live on. Her disabilities prevented her from returning to a well-paying job. Compounding her problems, she was unable to get public assistance.
But Lyon was a fighter, determined to put her life back together. After much thought she came up with the idea of putting her prior experience in job placement to good use by starting an employment service. But with a new twist. Lyon focused on finding jobs for people who, like herself, faced hardships, many of which they had no control over. She adopted the axiom, "If you work for God, God will work for you."
Over time Lyon became a pastor and opened a ministry in Denver, which also serves as a food bank and boarding house. She also offers support services for the poor.
She has helped hundreds of people get back on their feet. In 2014 when she was looking for help to fund CPS, I was happy to lend a hand getting her charity off the ground. We rai