There is so much to love on Momastery’s latest post.
“These are men who believe in the power of downward mobility. They believe we do not serve, we love. They work with not for others. They believe in justice—not charity. They know that compassion can only exist between equals, so they make friends, not clients.”
My daughter works for a literacy program in an inner city school. Last week a local celebrity came to read to the kids, which was really nice and he did a really good job. There had been a radio contest and whoever donated the most to a certain cause got to choose which school would get the reading. All in all it was a good day. But there were a couple of things that just didn’t sit right with my girl:
First, the program manager for that school made an embarrassingly big deal over the guest reader. “I mean,” Daughter asked, “shouldn’t ALL guests to the school, ALL volunteers be treated the same?”
“Yes,” I agreed, “and both Jesus and His brother, James, would agree, too.”
Second, after the celebrity read, the man whose donation won the reading got up to say a few words. He told the kids to learn to read. He told the kids that they won’t go anywhere in life unless they can read and write, fill out a job application, etc. On and on he went.
Look around you, Daughter thought. These kids are sitting IN A SCHOOL where they are LEARNING TO READ AND WRITE. Applaud them for that rather than admonishing them for being the potential dropouts your words assume they are. And have a little respect for the teachers, who are TEACHING THEM TO READ AND WRITE. They are here EVERY DAY, quietly shining the light of learning into their lives.
Personally I don’t believe making one donation earns anyone the right to speak, but, if you must speak, then at least know your audience.
Clearly this man did not know his audience. The children to whom he was speaking have all written books through the literacy program’s publishing center. They CAN write. And all of them are reading at least at grade level.
Why do we have to view people as completely helpless before we will help them? Or completely poor?
For several summers my daughter and I participated in a day camp in that city. For three weeks of every summer the campers receive academic enrichment in the mornings and Bible, worship and field trips in the afternoons. Teens from participating churches come as volunteer helpers. One summer two of the teens (and their mom, who was one of the paid workers) kept referring to the campers as “the poor kids”. After several days of that, one of the campers whispered to me, “I’m not poor. I live in a big house.” Sweet, sweet boy.
Many of those campers knew their Bibles a lot better than their teen helpers did. And yet they were repeatedly spoken to as if they knew nothing.
After just one summer the affluent church, from which the aforementioned “helpers” came, withdrew their involvement from the camp because the campers were not needy enough. (Praise God for that!)
I don’t want to judge that church, perhaps they were just trying to be good stewards of their wealth, but why not shore up a population that is trying? Why not help those who are only a little bit needy? Why does it have to be a big boost? What’s wrong with giving a little boost? What’s wrong with watering seeds that have already been planted? Maybe there’s not enough personal glory in that.
Why do we have to label those we help as poor and needy and even portray them as poorer and needier than they actually are in order to get funding? And keep labeling them to keep the funding. It’s like when I was a social worker and some of the foster moms would tell me month after month how horribly behaved the kids were in order to keep receiving their extra “special needs” allotment. I wouldn’t get a true picture of their behavior until I would finally say, “Well, if his/her behavior hasn’t improved at all in all these months, then perhaps he/she is in the wrong home.” Catch 22.
“Compassion between equals” because we are all equally loved by God and we are all crippled in one way or another. Equals get to blossom and grow, the needy have to stay needy.
This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.