Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Community Development 101--Part Six
When people ask me what we do at Central Dallas Ministries, I always tell them about the "3 boxes" that we work among on a daily basis. Each box attempts to describe one of the board, but interrelated, categories of action that we take in responding to persons and neighborhoods caught in poverty.
Yesterday, I described the first box--Compassion.
Once a person regains her balance for living, gets back on her feet and can think clearly about what might be ahead, we offer the option of taking essential next steps toward a better life. In this offer everyone involved moves over into the next category of action.
Box Number 2: Opportunity Creation
A number of our different initiatives are designed to open doors of opportunity to the people involved.
Here we think of the story Jesus told that is generally known as the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). The story is based on the notion that every person has ability, capital and capacity. The challenge or the question is, what will we do with our assets?
We make it clear to everyone involved in this stage of our work that we believe in the God-given talent, purpose and potential of every person. The challenge we all face is to use what we have and to see it increase.
If a person is content to take their talent and bury it in an East Dallas crack house, then we communicate very clearly that we are not the place for them at this point. I have invited lots of people to leave because we don't intend to waste our time on people who are "playing." We don't play.
But for everyone who is serious about their talent and maximizing that talent, we are ready to work and work hard.
In this category of action we offer all sorts of educational opportunities to both youth and adults--GED completion, technology training, SAT preparation, tutoring, homework help, life skills and most recently, hard skills training in "hazmat" cleanup.
In this dimension of our work we teach people how to play the "game of Dallas" according to the rules that currently exist and apply.
In addition, many of our community health and wellness opportunities and our legal counsel are designed to strengthen people for work and progress. Suing for child support, involvement in a support group, pastoral counseling or other forms of therapy--all are actions that lead on to increased life opportunity.
Working alongside people who are serious about developing and executing a life plan is a real blast.
When we are working in this "box," we attract lots of community people who want to take advantage of the new opportunities. We attract business partners who need good employees. We attract certain donors who want to see things move beyond charity to long-term, sustainable change.
Creating new and substantial opportunities stands at the center of community development work.