I just read in this morning's newpaper about Jon Bon Jovi and his wife Dorthea opening a "pay only if you can" restaurant in New Jersey for low income families. Patrons are served quality meals and envelopes are left on the table for money to be put in to pay for the meals only if the patrons can afford to pay. There are no prices on the menu so people pay what they can afford. Sometimes they can't pay anything, and that's okay.
Jon & Dorothea recognize the need for people, especially families, to enjoy a dinner out together. Sometimes it may be there only real meal and sometimes it may be the only way a family can afford to go out together with little funds available.
BUT... the restaurant has a second part to it. Patrons are strongly encouraged to "pay back" with volunteerism! Jon, Dorothea and their charity (the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation) realize that many of those who can not find employment, and therefore need a good free meal sometimes, have able bodies and time to give back. The restaurant serves as a clearinghouse for community projects in need of volunteers. I think this is just AWESOME!!
I must admit that I sometimes look at the unemployed and wish they would "get off their lazy butts." God forgive me. I know it's a terrible stereotype and I am ashamed for feeling that way. I think to myself "they suck off the system" - they make the employed pay for them through unemployment checks and food stamps. In reality I know every single person unemployed has a reason, a story behind why they can't work or can't find work. They might have physical limitations, or housing and transportation troubles, children to take care of, or countless other legitament reasons for not working. Often pride plays a part in it too.
But, that's why I think the Bon Jovis have a wonderful model to follow. They help those in need BUT they also encourage a way to contribute to the community. To give back! And, by giving back the volunteering person can gain confidence, perhaps some new skills, meet people, and also help others. It's a win-win!
I have long thought that too many people look at volunteerism as something to do "oh, if I have the time"...or "if it serves me too." That mindset needs to change. Our Gospel lesson this coming Sunday includes the commandment "DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU." Just think how wonderful our country could be if we all could live by this golden rule? Even President Kennedy said "Don't ask what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country!"
So, kudos to Jon and Dorthea Bon Jovi for their "pay if you can" restaurant and volunteer program. I hope other people follow the same concept in communities around the country.