The three skills that are necessary for a responsible adulthood are the ability to obtain, to process what is obtained and to apply what is processed, the Rev. Dr. J. Morris Smith, said at a recent noontime ecumenical luncheon. Without those skills, a person has a greater chance of being poor and will need help from others.
Smith, coordinator of Shepherd of the Street and permanent deacon at St. Joseph the Worker Parish, wanted to give a "face to the poor." He helps about 90 people a week in various situations.
The reason people are here is to serve the poor, who have always existed and will exist as long as communities exist, Smith said.
Dr. J. Morris Smith, Shepard of the Street for the United Church of Lycoming County, spoke during a recent ecumenical luncheon at the Pine Street United Church, 441 Pine St. Smith’s message was that there are three things a person needs to nurture and they can be summarized as obtain, process and apply. Those three things, when nurtured, can help us follow directions, complete tasks and overcome failure.
"It took Jesus to turn attention to the poor," he said.
Jesus talked more about helping the poor in the Gospel of Luke than in any other gospel, which is why it is sometimes referred to as the Gospel of the Poor.
About 18,000 people in Lycoming County cannot read above a third-grade level, he said during the gathering at Pine Street United Methodist Church, 441 Pine St.
"Their ability to obtain is curtailed," he said.
If, he gave as an example, a doctor gave a patient a prescription, which read to take one pill a day with food, the patient might not remember when told and could take two, three or even four pills a day.
One of the reasons people visit the Shepherd of the Street ministry, 669 Center St., is because they were presented with a document to explain a problem found during a visit to the emergency room, but cannot understand the document.
" 'I guess I'm very sick,' " Smith said, voicing concerns of some of those who visit him. "'The doctor gave me these papers, but I don't understand what it means.'"
What he recommends is doctors asking patients what's wrong, telling them what they need to do and having them repeat it back to make sure they comprehend the instructions.
"Have them feed it back," he said. "Only then do you know if they understand."
There have been some advances in helping the illiterate with understanding medicinal needs. Previously, medicine could have a label that said to take two tablespoons every four hours, but Smith said companies have developed a cap the size of a tablespoon, so directions read take two caps full every four hours.
Still, many signs rely on words to convey a message that not everyone understands. Having an incomprehensible 'no swimming' sign could confuse someone who has a reading problem.
"That spells tragedy in our society," he said.
Reading is a skill that has to be used lest it be lost, Smith said. Not reading also contributes to a trouble with understanding. The people live in ignorance, which he said is not the same as being stupid because they do not know.