Sunday, July 26, 2009

Dignity for the Poor

I want to start by apologizing to you. If you have read my stories of the people here and felt guilty or pity towards them, I am sorry. I am sorry for their sake that I have subjected individuals to such emotions you need not feel for the sake of feeling bad. I am learning what it is to give dignity to the poor, or rather I have learned this and have realized what this looks like. Through the communities I have visited here and in my experiences with my orphan loves in Tijuana, Mexico, the “poor” have taken faces. “They” are no longer a distant idea of nameless, big-eyed, malnourished picture used by a charity organization, “they” are my friends. As one man involved in an FH project in Uganda said,

“As long as the poor are just an idea, you don’t have to deal with them. But when the poor—this poor person—becomes your brother, then you gotta deal with it.”

They are not a category, a stereotype, a class, but they are human beings. Just as I hate being labeled and being restricted to the boundaries of the “white, middle-class American” group, people here do not deserve to be bound in the “poor Filipino” group. After all, what are these labels we apply to one another anyways? (Thanks, Rach). All they do is bring about judgment (to which I am in no way past, myself), and everyone deserves a fair chance to get to be known as the beautiful, unique, and complicated being created by God as they are. So do accept my apology for making broad generalizations and not focusing enough on the stories of my friends here. As the internship is coming to a close, I do regret not figuring this out until the end after I already pulled the guilt and pity card on my readers.

When it comes to helping my new friends, isn’t it just natural to want to help your friends whose need you can satisfy? Giving an egg to a neighbor friend is done gladly because they need an egg for cookies and you have extra, and in the end you’ll get to share in enjoying the cookies, and it’s all just lolly-dolly (yeah I just made that phrase up). Giving to our poor brothers and sisters should be the same attitude, “I’m giving you ___ because I know you need it and it will be good for you and me.” We’re (FHPH) administering classes on financial management to adults in the communities because it is good to know how to save and be educated about the matter, and to see people learn and grow in managing money is a blessing to us. We are giving money towards school supplies for CDP kids because they cannot afford them, it is good to have them, and seeing them earn an education to break their cycle of poverty is absolutely fulfilling for us. The relational aspect makes the giving and receiving reciprocal. And this is how I believe we should be giving to the poor.

Now (as the philosophy classes have taught me to be my own devil’s advocate), what happens when the results don’t come, when we are NOT blessed by giving? The adults in the financial management class chose to continue wasting their money on gambling. The children receiving school supplies chose to drop out of school. God’s command to give to the poor is still the same (found in so many verses in the Bible I don’t know which one to quote here). And yet we are all sinful and development is messy work and often does not go according to plan, as I’ve learned here. We are still called to serve, even when it’s hard and we do not see or feel results, because this is pleasing to God. And in His timing, we will be blessed. And God is still good, regardless.


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