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Adele Elliott: Brother's keeper


Adele Elliott



"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of ... the main ... any man''s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." John Donne 1624 




The death of Hozzie Hawthorne last week was painful to so many in our area. There is something surreal about the knowledge that an old man could freeze to death in this place known as "The South." 


Our part of the world is associated with images of lush gardens and fragile belles. Summer can be oppressive here; usually, winters are mild. Now, we learn that a 72-year-old man died in his own bed because he did not have heat. How can we not be shocked? 


Three days later Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley made a speech proclaiming that non-Christians are not his brothers or sisters. (And on Martin Luther King Day, no less!) 


In Houston, Texas, Bobby and Amanda Herring, who had fed homeless people for more than a year, were stopped by authorities. They were told they needed a permit. "And city officials say the couple most likely will not be able to obtain one." (Houston Chronicle 1-13-11) 


We have isolated ourselves into little islands, little pockets. Our world is shrinking. The list of "acceptable" people just gets smaller. Apparently, we like it that way. 


Hozzie Hawthorne begged on the streets of Columbus. (That must have been very difficult.) But, he was almost invisible. Most people turn away at the sight of someone perceived to be sub-human. Confronting extreme poverty is disturbing and awkward. 


Sameness is comfortable. Gov. Bentley only likes those with his tenets -- exactly. Although he claims that he wants to be our brother (MSNBC 1-19-11), he truly seems insincere. It''s not hard to wonder if he is equipped to lead an entire state. I imagine there are a few non-Christians among his constituents, even in Alabama. His statement assumes that everyone really wants to be his "brother." Certainly, some do not. 


The Herrings, in Texas, tried to reach out, but were thwarted by laws that are well-meaning, but damaging. In some ways they are the only heroes of this story. However, they are out of business at this time. 


Although Bobby and Amanda Herring put the label of "Christianity" on their work, they make no distinctions based on the beliefs of the hungry, and probably think of them all as "brothers." 


John Donne might be surprised to see how detached we have become. His poem has little meaning in this era of greed and ego. Martin Luther King, as well, was a Christian minister with broad ideas about equality. He fought for people of different religions and races. I wonder what he would think of us now. Christ loved children and sinners without prejudice. In all these centuries we have learned so little. 


I am weary of this "island life." I am so sorry that people around me are hungry and cold. It''s time for me to build a raft to the mainland and embrace my sisters and brothers, homeless, heathen or different in any way. 


Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina. E-mail reaches her at [email protected]


Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.


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Reader Comments

Article Comment jim varnon commented at 1/25/2011 2:11:00 PM:

Adele....Enough about the Govenor of Alabama...That does not become you and it is no good for the Dispatch either.We have heard it stretched to the extreme on too many outltets already. In the context of his Christian family, he is correct anyway.In the context of his politics, it won't matter. He is sworn to uphold the rights of all of his citizens.As for treating our fellow man with kindness, I see that you failed to note the apology that the Gov. issued..Was that nice ? NO!..I am sure that you are a kind person, but the comments as per the Gov.spoiled an otherwise descent article.


Article Comment widerworldview commented at 1/27/2011 1:29:00 PM:


I feel compelled to respond to your comments.

You write "Enough about the Governor of Alabama..." Only seven sentences in Ms. Elliott's article (and only this article!) contain any kind of reference to Gov. Bentley. You make it seem as if she has been going on and on for days or months. My guess is that what you really are unhappy about is the widespread condemnation that Gov. Bentley's insensitive and damaging remarks received throughout both the media and the public-at-large. Then, you decided to take it out on Ms. Elliott.

Governor Bentley, as you so correctly pointed out, took an oath to uphold the rights of ALL of the citizens of Alabama. However, what goes along with that is the implication that he will treat each and every citizen EQUALLY and FAIRLY. His comments don't inspire confidence that he will, in fact, treat everyone fairly.

What makes his statement even more shocking is that he uttered it in a church and on Martin Luther King Day, when we commemorate the life of a man who was dedicated to non-violent social change and equality for all!

It never ceases to amaze me how some 'Christians" can be so incredibly selective in their literal interpretation of Bible verses, when it suits their cause.

Yes, Gov. Bentley did issue an apology. One has to wonder, though, about the degree of sincerity and whether he would have issued an apology had there not been such a public outcry. In any case, once the words have been spoken, the damage has already been done. I can't help but be concerned about the impact that the Governor's comments will have on the people that work under him, and whether they will take his words as a "green light" to treat non-Christians differently than Christians.

Although I am both Caucasian and christian (lower-case "c" in Christian used for emphasis), I can't help but be grateful that I do not live in Alabama.


Article Comment jim varnon commented at 1/28/2011 1:41:00 PM:

You just made my case "widerworkview"...We are not in ALABAMA..The comparison that she uses for a story about a poor Mississipian dying from having frozen to death and the words of an ALABAMA governor at a church, JUST DO NOT FIT....PERIOD..You can take off on CHRISTIANS and correct interpretation of Holy Scripture and any one else that you may choose(after all, that is the politically correct route to take these days), BUT NO OFFENSE to Adele(and in spite of your personal attacks), her comments did not fit the otherwise GOOD story.


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