Do Something! Theme Song

Do Something!

Wow! I found the theme song for this movement. Matthew West’s song illustrates exactly what I am jumping up and down about.

httpa://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_RjndG0IX8

My mother told me that when she was a child in the middle of the great depression, people reached out and were supportive. Of course, at the time most people were struggling. The people who had “some” were so much better off than others that sharing with their neighbor seemed to be the only answer.

But, now, some of the rhetoric around poverty, homelessness, and addictions is incredibly dismissive of the real human circumstances  and societal structures that contribute to these conditions.

Did we start looking to Big Government to take care of our neighbors while we look the other way? Did we just get weary of trying to change something that we didn’t have the force to make a big difference? Did the implementation of social programs take away our desire to help? Or, has it always been a part of human nature?

In the Bible, Jesus told about interpersonal reactions that mirrored societal attitudes. The parable of the “Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:29-36) is where Jesus answers the question, “and who is our neighbor?” by showing a disdained stranger caring for an injured Israelite. That makes me wonder if ignoring the plight of the other has been part of our makeup for a long time.

I also love the little Vacation Bible School song that I learned as a child, “They will know we are Christians by our love”. I’d really like to live into that; wouldn’t you?

Benefits of Volunteerism

There are many benefits of volunteering. 

Obviously, the people who are served receive benefits.  Or else, why would you be giving your time and skills?  Often the positive benefit is on both sides of the giving – for both the giver as well as the receiver.

It is remarkable when I have set out to volunteer in the past.  I am always blessed by those whom we serve.  I have met interesting, funny and charming humans through trying to help them.  It turns out that I was the one in need of assistance.  They were my lanterns to help me see the nooks and crannies of my own spiritual poverty.  I learned much about appreciating all the good that is in life from serving others that I thought were needy.

Restoring the felon 

Demetrius* is my friend’s brother.  He ‘s been released from prison, has been for seven months.  He was serving 5-10 years for possession with intent to distribute in Louisiana.  He served five years, he’s on parole, and he still owes a hefty fine.

Let me tell you about Demetrius.  We call him D, he’s tall and handsome.  He has a quiet sense of humor.  He makes fun of himself a lot, but also teases about the society around him. His niece and nephew adore him.  D has been learning to cook and clean in appreciation for the roof over his head.  The little old widows in the neighborhood absolutely rely on him to help them with heavy lifting, yard work and sometimes just a listening ear.  His daughter was born three months after he went in. He doesn’t hear from his baby mama, but her brother stopped by to tell D that he owes five years of child support and the amount is rising every day.  The man offered an “opportunity” for D, one which would violate his parole.  D declined, and the brother left with a vague promise of negative consequences to D if the child support is not paid.

Release is great news! Yet, he’s so disheartened at not finding a job that my friend isn’t sure how hard he’s still looking. He stays with their sister, and job hunting isn’t really a safe topic for conversation.  Little brother reacts badly to what feels more like judgement than concern. What does a family member do in such a circumstance?  Avoid? Confront? Both have definite hazards.

THE BIG QUESTION

How do we as a community of faith help?

SOME ANSWERS

Hope Restored is in Monroe Louisiana. They are offering a series of classes designed to help people when they regain their freedom.  Things like anger management and parenting.  AA meets in their facility to aid addiction recovery. There are counselors available to people who come in. They also sponsor a recovery house which provides a place to live while women find their way to employment, sobriety and housing.  Their goal is also to sponsor a men’s house. This work is so vital and necessary!!

Prison Fellowship has programs for grassroots ministries to learn more about the difficulties of re-entry and ways to address them.

ROOM FOR MORE

Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the country.  Yet, a Google search for ministry’s helping prisoner re-entry provides minimal results.  There is a huge opportunity here! We can make a huge difference not only in the lives of the former inmate, but in the lives of their children and other family members.

I’d love to hear about what ideas you have. Are you working in a ministry addressing this?

*Not a real name

Year of Mercy

Pope Francis has declared 2016 as a Year of Mercy. The corporal acts of mercy are:

Feed the hungry, Give drink to the thirsty, Clothe the naked, Shelter the homeless, Visit the sick, Visit the imprisoned, and Bury the dead. The spiritual works of mercy are: Admonish the sinner, Instruct the ignorant, Counsel the doubtful, Comfort the sorrowful, Bear wrongs patiently, Forgive all injuries, Pray for the living and the dead. (https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/activities/view.cfm?id=1017, accessed 02/22/2016)

What would our society look like if we all started to do these things, whether we are Catholic or not? What if we took seriously Jesus’ instruction to his disciples in Matthew 10: 8: “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” (NIV) As Christians, these are the things that come out of a powerful response to God’s great love. When we truly receive forgiveness and drink in God’s merciful redemption through the grace of Jesus Christ, we want to share that with everyone. These are ways in which we can share that love.

But I can’t heal the sick! Maybe it’s because I’ve never tried. Because, when I pray for someone’s health, there are often positive results. I can take no credit for the healing. I can, though, recognize that calling on God’s healing power is an action I can take in response to God’s mercy in my life.

What is it to raise the dead? What if this is reference to the deadness of soul that comes from sin? If it is, then we can certainly be a part in raising people from the dead. We can pray for God’s mercy, grace and healing upon the person we know who is addicted. This is a different tactic than I have taken in the past, where I have judged and written off and disdained those who struggle.

What do we mean, cleanse those who have leprosy? Drive out demons? Are these anachronisms, set in a particular time in human history? Or, are they relevant today? (I have a lot of questions)! What if leprosy is any condition or difference that makes it difficult for people to fit into society? Things like deafness and blindness are barriers to participation with many people. Differently-abled people, whether intellectual differences or physical differences, all deserve a place at the table. Perhaps demons and mental health diagnoses are related to each other. Some of the descriptions of behaviors driven by demon possession are similar to what we call anxiety disorders, depression, schizophrenia, and other ailments. One person in the biblical story seemed to be plagued with what we call seizures.

Some people are able to work with others and always see them as God’s beloved children. Some of us have to really work at setting aside our prejudices and preconceived notions. All of us are challenged to live into our status as God’s beloved children. Jesus has invited us to be His hands and feet in the world. Let’s turn our face toward that wonderful calling!

What’s Your Purpose?

Finding purpose

Finding purpose in our lives is an on-going quest. “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl is a tiny book which has a big lesson. His description of a day in the life of a Jewish prisoner in an internment camp in Nazi Germany is visceral. The take away from the book is that a “why” is the most important element in life. People who lost their sense of purpose and meaning to their lives did not have the internal grit to survive.

Social Entrepreneurship

Social entrepreneurship is a current movement in commerce. The idea that our businesses need to have a purpose beyond financial profit has taken hold of our imaginations. The people who have begun their careers within the most recent ten years often seem to strive for making a difference in the lives of others. Pencils of Promise and Tom’s Shoes each have a mission far beyond the bottom line. Pencils of Promise is seeking to build schools in developing countries. Tom’s shoes provides simple, sturdy shoes in South America. There are numerous other organizations which have a purpose far beyond themselves. This is a powerful understanding and I celebrate it!

What about us?

But what about those of us who are just starting in our entrepreneurial journey? Do we have to travel to the developing world to get fired up about helping in another country? Is giving money the only way we can help the broken and impoverished of this world?

I believe that our purpose can be much simpler and closer to home. There are many things we can do to help in our own backyard. When we live in urban areas, there can be places which we rarely visit; the poor side of town, the ‘hood, the ghetto, call it what we may. There are pockets of the developing world right in our own backyards. In rural areas, it’s harder to sniff out those who are in dire straits, but when we pause in our striving we know they are there.

My experience is that people who are struggling for survival have many reasons for the challenges they face. Whether their reasons are internal or through systems within our society, reasons exist. If it is internal, then we are the best ones to offer assistance. We can lead and guide in shaping the thoughts and attitudes which get into a person’s way to block their path to success. Because, often we have found our own way over, around, under or through the same boulder on the road.

What do you think?

The direction

I have been thinking about this topic of how can we do better for our children and families for a year now.  I have made a few blog posts learning more about the problem.  I have learned and prayed and talked about it.  This is what I plan to do:

I will reach out to organizations and ministries that are making a difference to the individuals and communities and which they operate. I will connect with a person who has benefited from the services provided and help their story to be told. Then, I will connect with a volunteer from the agency or ministry.  Then, I will connect with the founder or current director. It is my earnest desire to encourage everyone in our communities to become aware of the needs and know what it is that they can do about it.

I will blog and create a podcast from these connections.