Imagine if the entire population of the United States were made up of widows. Women who have lost their husbands and are either alone, or left with children to raise. Women who have either not worked outside the home or had fewer / lower paying jobs and are now unable to support their households.
The entire population of the United States.
That’s overshooting a bit, I guess. Across the globe, there are:
Three hundred million. The size of the U.S., spread across the globe, in countries with great resources or with limited resources, countries with stigmas and cultural biases that put widows at risk or without those biases, countries that don’t have social support nets in place to help them support themselves or their families or whose safety nets are inadequate. Three hundred million.
I’m having a hard time getting my head around that number. And figuring out what to do with that number as a Christian when the Bible tells us, from the Old Testament to the New, that God cares for widows, when Jesus himself tells us that the widow’s mite is worth more than anything we could give out of our abundance because she gave it out of her poverty.
Today, by “chance,” I had coffee with a woman who is a widow. A mutual friend of ours connected us so that I might help her figure out how to fill her time now that she is having to reconfigure her life in the wake of her husband’s death. She is wanting to occupy her mind, use her brain, serve others, be of use. But she can only draw an extremely limited income or she will lose her survivor’s benefits including healthcare benefits for her three kids and tuition support for the two in college. Isn’t that a kick in the pants? An educated, well-spoken, well-connected, experienced woman — with children to care for — she will lose the support net if she makes even one penny over $17,000 per year.
It’s not just the women living in poverty who are at risk.
300 Million Widows. What do we do with that??
How do we open our eyes to see the suffering of widows God so clearly loves, who Jesus so clearly values?
How do we allow widows then to suffer the indignity of not being able to support themselves and their families after the death of their husbands?
How do we use our abundance to advocate for and represent the needs of those widows whose resources are so limited?
How do we pastor to those widows in their grief and in the midst of their enormous burdens?
I have no real answers. There are no easy answers, are there? Although as soon as I typed that, I thought to myself, “What could be easier than being kind to someone in need?” A loaded question, maybe, when we all have baggage that clouds our vision at times and blocks us from seeing suffering, and when we all define “kind” so differently.
At the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, we’ll be discussing the challenge of caring for widows, among other things. As Presiding Bishop Curry’s representatives on the delegation to the Episcopal Church, we are certainly praying about it and asking God to give us opportunities to speak truth into people who have the power to make big, systemic changes in this world. I hope you’ll join us in prayer.
I also hope that in our daily lives, we will all intentionally seek out opportunities to be a source of kindness and caring for widows in our own communities.
Father, we ask you to remind us all that you are indeed the Father of orphans and protector of widows, that we might follow your lead and care for them as you would have us do. Help us to advocate for them at the institutional level and also care for them at the individual level. We ask you to inspire the rulers of this world to look with kindness and compassion on the suffering of widows that they might commit themselves to making the changes necessary to support and uplift them in their communities all around the world. We ask all of this with boldness and expectancy, Lord, believing that it is in accordance with your will. In the precious name of your son we pray. Amen.
Father of orphans and protector of widows
is God in his holy habitation.
If you would like to support my trip to the United Nations in March 2019, I am still a little short. You can find the GoFundMe campaign here. Thank you for any penny you might offer! Every little bit helps and I am grateful for your support.