Seriously, “why??” you ask? My question back to you would be; “Why do it? What motivates you to participate in such activities?” I often get answers back such as;
“It makes me feel good about myself”
“I find it rewarding”
“I want my kids to know how lucky they are”
“I want to be grateful for all I have”
Do you see any common thoughts through these responses? These responses are not wrong. They are common motivations that drive us to give. Do you see what’s missing? Last night we had a poverty reduction discussion in our city. A smart, young gal of twenty-something who works at one of our shelters suggested this as a goal; Educating people about what really helps those living in poverty – or in her case, the homeless. Many of the things we do are “good”, but if we really want to make a difference, there are better options. This young adult offered up the idea of volunteering our friendship and mentorship into the life of a homeless person; inviting them to our home for dinner, showing them where to grocery shop, how to cook, etc so they find community outside their street community. Many of them repeat the cycle of staying on the streets because of the loneliness they face once coming off the street. The isolation and not knowing how to function in society overwhelms them. Imagine they had a family, or someone helping them and giving them community and support? Think of what impact that would have.
The last thing these people need after a day of being derailed by society is for individuals from that same society to come and serve them “just to feel better about themselves”. Perhaps a motivation a step deeper is needed? Perhaps they deserve our self-less desire just to see their right to basic needs met? As soon as they become something to brag about on our facebook status or a “family project” that will soon be forgotten, we have defaced them as well.
Imagine we got right down rebellious towards the trend of altruism? Imagine we saw poverty as something that could be defeated rather than put up with? Imagine we could see broken people as humans with dignity rather than projects?
It calls for a new culture of self sacrifice. A culture where generosity goes beyond charity into the cause of justice. If you can go beyond where most tend to stop, you can be the inspiration people need to see that there is more than just the “experience” of serving.
You ARE the kind of person who can create a new normal. Where it’s “normal” to bring the outsider into your community, your family. Where you invite them for a meal… in your home…. with your kids. Crazy? Where you go beyond giving on occasion (or never) to putting aside money per paycheck just to give to those in need – even if it means saying bye bye to Starbucks…..
When it hurts, you know it’s real.