Toxic Charity–Service With Dignity
By Cheryl Broetje–The Center for Sharing Staff is currently going through the book Toxic Charity. If you’re interested in joining the conversation or learning more, please let us know by calling us at 509.546.5999.
We who are drawn to the values of community and service are often willing to sacrifice time, money, and energy in order to help out the less fortunate. We get that there is a cost that goes with reaching out to others in their time of need. But…how often do we think about the price that aid recipients have to pay to be a recipient of that charity? For one thing, as human beings we are made in the image of God, with an intrinsic right to dignity and self-respect. But, people are easily wounded by anything that erodes the divine image within.
Robert Lupton offers some helpful hints for helping to protect that image of the Divine within:
- attentive listening communicates worth
- legitimate employment brings meaning and purpose to life
- community gives a sense of belonging.
Here’s a story of how we are trying to work with them at the Collegium: A young man came in and confessed all manner of issues that were weighing him down with shame and guilt. He’s not in school, gang affiliation, legal stuff pending, but no job, no life. He actually came in thinking it was too late for him…that his life was over… but that perhaps if he told us his story, we might know how to help someone else. So…we listened. That’s all he specifically asked us to do.
Out of that, a next step seemed to emerge…he needed to do some community service. So…we put him to work. The next day he came in ready to work. Staff members found things that he could help them do together (creating a fledgling sense of community). He has been flying around here. When asked how he felt about it, he reported that he felt ‘useful’ here (employed, needed, of value). He finished his service, with a smile.
We are trying to ‘re-neighbor’ folks that so need a good neighbor, by moving into the neighborhood and becoming neighbors to those who live around here….it means listening first, asking about priority issues, helping them determine the ones are most important now, and what kind of resources already exist within them/this community. Community led initiatives rather than volunteer or institutionally led activities….slower, but hopefully more life-honoring for us all.