Growing up we began singing a song in church, one of the lines is “I see a generation, rising up to take their place. With selfless faith.” When I first heard that song, as a teen, I thought of it referring to my generation. Now, I’m not so sure. I feel more like it refers to a generation that is not yet born.
I see many in my generation eager to take on social justice issues. They rally for the homeless and addicts, but also for other groups that are seen as marginalized but who are not as marginalized as the first two. I see them concerned for orphans in other countries, supporting widows in foreign lands. But, I do not see the same concern for widows in our communities, I do not see the same support for orphans in our own country.
We seem to have developed a church that is powerful in foreign countries, but ignores the people at our own door. Now, I’m not talking about more programs, or more outreaches. We don’t need more programs and outreaches. We need people helping people in an unorganized, organic, and loving manner. I disagree with churches that tell you to donate your “help others” money to them, to determine who most deserves it.
Leaving it all to the church authority, in my mind, takes away from the Christian community. Helping others, in our communities and outside them, should be an opportunity to build relationships, friendships, and camaraderie. Helping in a community sense relies far less on an institutionalization of “help” and on individual character and actions.
In one of the jobs I held, I had a coworker who was temporarily house-less for the summer. I had just started working at the same time she did, and we were both full time. While she was house-less, I’d offer a ride to her campsite, or a spare bus ticket so she would be less stressed. Every time, she rejected the offer of help. I kept offering, with the same frequency. After she had a house again, she started accepting the offers of a lift, or my leftover paper bus tickets that I didn’t need.
I feel the reason it took so long for her to accept my offers of help was simple. She felt like the offer reflected her house-less situation (normally termed homelessness). When I continued offering, she accepted because she realized that I wasn’t offering because of who she was. I was offering help because of who I was.
This is the key when helping others in a community environment, without programs or labels. It is being consistent with who you are. If you offer help, keep offering even if it gets rejected. Eventually, people will see that that is who YOU are, and that is what builds the community. Being the person who wants to help, even if it might mean risking being taken advantage of once in awhile.
One way to avoid being taken advantage of is offering help in a physical manner, a lift home, help with the garden or leaf raking, where the action is quantifiable. Offering monetary help should only be done if you are willing to never see that money again. As Charles Spurgeon said in John Ploughman’s Talk, “there are still a few old souls who lend without any expectation of being paid back.” When I lend to acquaintances, I only lend as much as I’m willing to lose.
Sweat the Not-So Small Things:
I feel that I can never find enough people to help, because I want to know a little of the person first. Don’t jump on fundraisers and Go Fund Me sob stories. I focus in my larger community. Who has lost a house to fire? Is there someone who is struggling and expecting a baby? Who had trouble with flooding?
Christian Community is more than a church, a building, a fellowship, or small groups. We can be a huge impact, for hope, in our surrounding communities. If we pay attention and reach out. Sometimes it’s the smallest helps, a car ride, leaf raking, a cup of coffee together, that can make the biggest impact on someones life.
Yeshua (Jesus) rebuked the Pharisees for tithing their mint, dill, and cumin, but ignoring the needs of the widows, the orphans, and the bigger matters of righteousness, trust, and justice (Matt. 23:23). If all our community involvement is through the church, we can end up ignoring the very people who need our presence the most. The people who are too afraid, or proud, to admit they need help to an organization. These same people may be willing to accept a hand from a friend.
Generation of Hope:
Thinking of the song, are you willing to be someone with self-less faith and bring hope to others? Not in the way we’ve been taught to focus on, but in an individual manner. Help one person with your own hands, rather than throwing money at it through an organization?
We are going into a hard time. We don’t know when life will stop being a storm. Right now, in 2020, all the signs of a massive depression are before us. We need local community more NOW than ever before. Are we, 20-30 year olds, 15-20 year olds, 30+ year olds, willing to make a difference?
Leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.