KELOWNA – The Executive Director of Kelowna’s Gospel Mission lashed out at “sick” comments about the poor that appeared in a local newspaper.
Randy Benson took to Facebook to give a little back. He’s also penned a letter to the Daily Courier’s managing editor.
“It greatly disturbs me to read such contemptuous attitudes,” Benson said.
It was intended by the newspaper to be light-hearted fare: wish its readers a happy Thanksgiving on its Facebook page and asking what they were thankful for. But this is, after all, the Internet and not all were very thankful.
“The Mission is a good place to have, but what bothers me is so many people waiting in line and while doing so are on the cell phones, texting or talking," one anonymous poster wrote. "If you are that broke, get rid of the phones and buy groceries.”
“Hungry people have no right to communicate by phone, really?” Benson responded.
Benson said everybody who comes to the Gospel Mission has a story. Maybe the person standing in line talking on a cell phone just lost his job and his house. He's living in his car and his cell phone is his last means of communication.
"There's so much presumption and assumption about people's situations," Benson says. "Unless you've walked in their shoes. I guarantee anyone with the means to fix themselves a Thanksgiving dinner does not show up at our doors on Thanksgiving Day for a meal."
Benson has a standing an invitation to anyone to come down to the Kelowna Gospel Mission and see for themselves.
"Take a tour and find out what we really do," said Benson.
He admits his letter to the editor may be a little out of character, but he had to say it like it is.
"It’s unfortunate that people in our society make judgements without getting the whole story."
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— Since this story was first published, one of the letter writers, Dianne Varga, contacted us to explain that her comment was intended as satire. Below is her full response posted at 11:48 a.m, Oct. 24.
In reply to Randy Benson, Executive Director, Kelowna’s Gospel Mission
For the record, "youhavegottobekidding" is a frequent writer at the Daily Courier, as I myself am. I find much of what he or she writes to be over-the-top moralizing trash, and his or her comment that hungry people should not have cell phones was no different.
And so it was that I replied in parody form. Having a Master's in English, I do understand that anyone using parody or satire runs the risk of being taken seriously by those who don't quite get it.
There are still readers who imagine that Jonathan Swift was seriously recommending, in 1729, that the impoverished Irish could ease their economic troubles by selling their children as food to the rich English overlords. They howl in outrage over his "Modest Proposal" to stew, roast, bake or boil babies for a delicious, nourishing and wholesome meal.
To further clear the air, I'm a polemicist writer who often goes to battle for the ninety-nine per cent, the unemployed, and the marginalized. Most of the Courier's steady readership would be familiar with my writing.
Dianne Varga, Kelowna, BC
— 9:45 a.m., Oct. 28, 2013 - This story was edited to reflect new information received by InfoTel News.