Thursday, June 12, 2014

Development vs compassion: Is it either/or?

Anyone who works with and among low-income persons knows the tension. 

Some simply dismiss it by deciding to go one way or the other. 

And, I suppose that is fine.

I mean, seriously, we recognize that charity or relief does little to reduce demand.  In fact, responding to mounting human need with compassion often turns up the volume and the intensity of the need, and thus, of the demand for help. 

Clearly, the better choice is working on the development side.  Here we discover breakthroughs that shift the needs people have from charitable solutions to systemic, just, more final solutions that they can more easily control or influence.

It's the old give a fish versus teach to fish analogy. 

But, what are we to do in the challenging "between space"?  You know, that time before justice arrives or skills enhancement or new, sustainable work and opportunity show up. 

People have to eat.

Kids have to go to school with clothing and supplies.  Cars have to be fixed, doctor's bills paid and landlords kept happy. 

I realized a long time ago, that as limited in its enduring affect as it is, charity and compassion remain vital to community progress and development.  In meeting immediate needs we encounter the necessary opportunities to build relationships that will pay off later as we strive for community development goals.

Compassionate action can be stewarded into a sort of community renewal  that will put charity along way down the road to being unnecessary, or almost so.

For me, it is not an either/or, but a both/and proposition. 

We all deserve and need justice and opportunity to thrive; but, at the same time, we all need compassion along the way as well. 

So, our community organizing and our jobs training efforts continue alongside our food pantry and our emergency intervention efforts.

It's just life, hopefully together, all of us.

1 comment:

Cathy Sweeney said...

Absolutely, and amen. Thank you for a voice of compassion and reason, Larry.