This week I completed the proposal and first three sample chapters for what I hope will be my next published book. Below is a summary of the book. The first three chapters are available on the “Wendy’s Book” page of this site. Please let me know what you think.
Just Work: Justice in a Culture of Charity
We have all heard –and perhaps spoken–the phrases, “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” “You get what you work for,” “Hard work pays off,” and “Live the American Dream.” We have all driven past men and women in our city intersections holding signs that say “Will work for food” or “Homeless. Please help.” Probably the sight of them has sparked in us some combination of pity, guilt, and disgust. Many of us have thought or said, “Get a job!” as we speed past, avoiding the sign-bearers’ desperate eyes. Most likely, we are not so much heartless or uncaring as confused and frustrated. In a society where there is supposedly equal opportunity for all, why are some unable or unwilling to work for a living? Why would anyone choose to beg on a street corner when there are homeless shelters, food pantries, and soup kitchens throughout our cities? We are doing our part, we reckon, by giving to the local shelter, praying for these men and women, and serving in the local food pantry. Yet the problem persists.
In the fall of 2004, Wendy McCaig befriended a homeless woman and began a journey toward finding the answers to these questions. At times she has felt like Alice in Wonderland, following the white rabbit down the rabbit hole into the world of mental illness, addiction, violence, and poverty. While there, McCaig was befriended by three very wise men who themselves had fallen into that hole and had lived most of their adult lives trapped in that strange land. McCaig also met the children of this world; their eyes that had been bright with hope at age ten were dull and desperate a few short years later, their futures robbed by drugs, pregnancy, violence, and injustice. With the wisdom of her three guides, McCaig takes us down that rabbit hole and on a journey toward finding hope for the children trapped in poverty in the inner city.
That journey out of poverty and toward hope and justice necessarily includes work, and the dignity and purpose it brings. By recognizing that we create imprisoning systems of dependency through our habits of charity and entitlements, dependencies we can avoid through offering work instead, we find that we are not powerless in the face of poverty but hold the keys to freedom from that prison.
Wendy McCaig is our Alice on this journey. She invites us to join her, to meet her friends, to see the travesties of justice committed by those in power who, like the mischievous Cheshire cat, try to lead us astray, and to change that predictable cycle by offering just work.