Monday, May 01, 2006
Community Development 101--Part Five
People ask me all of the time, "What do you do at Central Dallas Ministries?"
There are at least two ways to answer that question.
One is to launch off on a rundown of our various programmatic responses to the poverty that grips the lives of thousands of people who live in the inner city neighborhoods of Dallas.
Another way to get at an answer is to speak to the broad categories that best describe the different approaches we take to battling poverty. While I spend a great deal of time describing the specific things we do here, I've learned that it is best to begin with these descriptive categories because in them we can discover how our work relates to sustainable community development.
When it comes to these categories, I often speak of CDM's "three boxes." I even have a one-page graphic chart that sketches out these three important areas of concern for us.
Box Number 1: Compassion
If you show up on our doorstep passed out and basically "left for dead," as many people have across the years, then we will begin immediately pouring out the healing oil of compassion upon your body and soul.
When operating in this mode, we instinctively remember the story Jesus once told of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).
Several years ago on a very warm Sunday morning in August, I found a man passed out on the steps of the church. He had covered himself with a heavy wool blanket.
As I approached him, I wondered if he was dead.
Fortunately, he was not.
Trying to recover from a drunken stupor, no doubt induced by his bad choices the night before, the man began to come around as I shook him.
We helped him get inside where he enjoyed a cup of coffee, took advantage of our restroom facilities, washed up a bit and joined us for the church service. Afterwards, he ate lunch with us and we were able to visit and make plans for the next steps and the next few days.
People who find themselves in such situations often come to us for relief.
We welcome them.
And, we respond primarily with compassion. I mean, if you are passed out on my steps, your only responsibility is to keep breathing!
It is interesting to notice that when we do the work of compassion, everyone is happy! The person who needs the care, the volunteers (both from our community and from outside the community) are elated to help out and donors love the stories.
Compassion attracts lots of support. It makes for great press. Everyone loves to read and hear the stories of compassion played out.
Compassion occupies a huge part of what we do every day.
Community development depends on works of pure compassion.
We are set up so that very low-income persons can become first-class distributors of compassion every day. Our large Resource Centers, on Haskell Avenue and inside Roseland Homes, actually function as conveyors of compassion, hope and healing.
We work hard at transcending simple charity in an effort to move toward an empowering compassion that leads us deeper into the lives of people and closer to life-changing opportunity (but, now I am edging toward box 2!).
In one way or another, every area of our work is defined by compassion and concern.