Regarding secular poverty-fighting groups: As U2's "City of Blinding Lights" concludes, "Blessings are not just for the ones who kneel." One blessed example is Liberty's Kitchen (LK), a little New Orleans restaurant located near court buildings where at-risk youth slouch toward jail unless someone or something intervenes. The LK slogan, "Where Justice Is Served," is concrete rather than merely rhetorical: It combines good cooking with a training program for teens and young adults.
Justice at LK means giving students the opportunity to learn basic culinary and barista skills. Justice means not handing them anything but teaching them to make everything—pastries, salad dressings, soups, stocks—from scratch. Justice means giving active learners hands-on training in a highly structured 12-week program, rather than forcing them to sit at a desk in a classroom just this side of anarchy.
LK is similar in one sense to Victory Trade School because both teach young people how to become restaurant managers and workers. LK is different from the ministries in WORLD's contest, though, because it has no particular Christian emphasis—and it will be educational at some point to see whether a secular program can match Bible-centered ones in helping people not only get a job but persevere.
As Thanksgiving approaches, let's be thankful for programs of all kinds that do not merely enable people to stay in poverty: They help people rise above it. In city after city Christians and non-Christians see a problem and respond. Their social entrepreneurship is one of the astounding glories of America. None of the 40 other countries I've visited comes close.
A half-century ago John F. Kennedy said that if some doubt whether the West has the courage to stand up to Communism, "Let them come to Berlin." Today a sense of entitlement leaves some folks complaining instead of working, and sociologists doubt that Americans still have a pioneering spirit. Let them come to Springfield and New Orleans.
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