I started talking on this topic, but really didn’t get very far. If you didn’t read it, here is Part I.
In part I, I talked a lot more about you as the person who wants to get into this arena and possibly administer a program at some point.
I don’t know why I spent so much time on that topic. I’m not an administrator and that isn’t the direction my brain goes…usually!
Learn to look around you at the people in your community
So I’m going to back up a little. For most of us, when we start volunteering to help people in need, we don’t think about why the organization is doing what they are doing…usually. We just know we want to help.
If we think a child, particularly, is suffering as in not having enough to eat, or not being cared for properly in some way or other, we feel the need to get involved RIGHT NOW! As part of the Sunday study we have been in, we are learning about more effective ways of helping…and at deeper levels too.
The Dilemma of Christmas
For example, we, as white middle class Americans, have certain standards that we feel are needed for a person to live their life and if those standards aren’t met, we often feel the need to intervene.
We try to find ways to help the poor and give their children Christmas presents at this time of year. Frequently, we give gifts they would never be able to afford to give their children. By itself, that isn’t a bad thing, but have we ever taken the time to talk with the families we “help”?
By giving the way we do, we often build a wall between us and the parents, especially the fathers. It puts on display the truth of how they can’t provide the Christmas for their children they would love to provide. Their inadequacy is there for all to see. Often, the best presents their children get for Christmas are given by strangers.
Think how you would feel? Particularly if you are a man, I’m told that situations that allow them to feel inadequate are especially difficult and embarassing. It does nothing to build a relationship…and may even harm it because we are seen as being patronizing when that may not be in our minds at all!
In our town, a group who work in a poor community has developed a place for them to shop for items including, at Christmas, a place that sells toys. New toys are donated by local churches and others. They sell them very cheaply and if people don’t have money, they can work in the shop to earn hours for credit. By doing this, they can shop for their own children and pick out toys their child would want. Even if they don’t have a job, they can work for credit at the store and in so doing, build self-esteem and relationships with people there.
They also develop relationships with people in the store during the year where they sell lightly used furniture, etc. Prices are low and they are able to build their self-respect by purchasing or working to purchase items they need. It is one of many aspects of ministry to a depressed neighborhood that has been going on over 20+ years and is showing fruit.
What Assets has GOD put in this community?
Have you ever thought about a depressed neighborhood having strengths and assets? They do. The many problems in these communities often blind us to what they are, but they are there. We just need to look for them. In those neighborhoods, there are people known to be good at fixing cars, being good cooks, caring for people, helping, etc.
If we look, we can find Jesus’ presence there as well. We forget that just as Jesus was not a 20th century middle class white man, but rather was born into about 4 BC Roman ruled Israel. His culture looked quite different from ours and many depressed communities look different from ours as well. That doesn’t mean that Jesus isn’t there and at work! We often tend to forget that. We rarely take the time to look for Him in places we aren’t used to.
When someone comes to “help” in these areas, they must be sure they don’t squelch the support system that is already active in the community and try to apply a new template to “make it better.” We forget that our middle class white America is not all Godly either.
The book I referred to in Part I of this post…When Helping Hurts, talks about realizing what is broken in the world and helping with healing of the brokenness by GOD’s grace.
The best cure for a patronizing attitude?
The awareness that they aren’t the only broken people in the relationship!
The other very important thing to remember is that the people we are trying to help aren’t the only ones who are broken. We are broken too…just in different ways. We all need the grace of GOD to help us and change us. When we approach them with the attitude that we are on level ground because we all need GOD’s restoration when it comes to our relationship with Him, we have a great place to start!
So the next time you realize someone needs help…or they ask you for help, STOP. Instead of forking over what they want, or think they need, ask them what their resources are. What do they have to help out? Don’t rush to solve their problems. Help them struggle a bit. Help them think about what they need and what they can do to be part of the solution to their own problem. That’s how they will “grow up.” That’s how all of us grow up.
Yes, I”m only scratching the surface of what the book is talking about. I highly recommend it for your reading. Learn about the areas of brokenness in relationships in a community and how GOD can use His people to bring about change…for His glory.
The process of community development is a slow one for sure…but one that can certainly be mutually rewarding to all who are involved…over the long term. I need to stop for today, but there will be more to come.
And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
And the King will answer them,
‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,
you did it to me.’
Matthew 25:39-40 (NIV)