The other day, a young man walked into the church looking for help. He spoke to our Communications Coordinator, who asked if I would speak to him. She explained a little bit about his situation to me and I agreed to take some time to have a conversation with the young man.
We sat down, did the basic introductions, and I asked him, “How can we (the church) help you today?”
With that, the young man went into a very lengthy and passionate description of his home situation and his need for help.
As I listened, I was able to detect a certain sense of desperation in his voice and his body language. He was troubled. He was in need. It was very clear that his home life is a wreck.
What struck me was how he was certain that he knew exactly what he needed to help his situation. It was very apparent what he believed he needed and that he wasn’t going to settle for anything short of his desires.
I asked him the question, “Outside of coming into the church today, have you taken any other steps to meet this need?” A question like this helps me determine whether or not a person is truly looking for “help” or a “handout”. Are you at the end of your rope or are you simply looking for a quick fix?
We have to ask questions like this because, too often, there are people who try to scam the church (and other organizations that offer help). When the church is scammed, it becomes more difficult to help those who truly need it…as we sometimes run short of assistance funds.
However, I have always taken the stance that it is better to err on the side of grace. Therefore, I am more inclined to simple provide some assistance and hope, pray, trust that those receiving will use it wisely and for appropriate uses (to buy food, gas, pay rent/utilities, and not to buy alcohol, drugs, etc).
I said to the young man, “It’s very apparent that you have decided how to fix your situation. What exactly are you hoping I can do for you today?”
He went into another lengthy and passionate description of how he just needed me to give him a certain amount of money…in cash…and that would fix his problems.
I explained to him how we are able to help those in need. I explained that what he was asking for went outside of our guidelines for assistance. I explained that we could help, but not in the ways he had spelled out.
At this point, he started to get very upset, raising his voice, and became somewhat aggressive. I patiently listened to his response.
I then offered him some options for ways our church could assist him. I explained how it was obvious that his home life was not good and that it might be best if he found a way out of that environment. I offered some information on organizations in town that could help with some temporary housing, rental assistance, and so on. That was not a very good option.
I gave an option on how I could help him with some of his expenses, but that I could not and would not give him cash. It wasn’t that I felt he would use the cash for dishonest purposes. We simply have some guidelines and I was sticking to the policy.
His response was, “Well, basically you’re telling me that you can’t help me. You’re telling me that I’m screwed and I need to go sell my body on the street in order to fix my situation.”
I asked him to slow down for a minute. I reminded him that I had offered to help him, but that I was unable to help him in the way he desired to be helped. I asked him to hear me out and let me help. I said, “I want to help you out. But you have to let me help you.”
I explained how, if he had this serious need, I could help him address those needs in a healthy manner.
It boiled down to a young man who had already decided what he needed and wasn’t open to hearing other options.
This experience got me thinking about how, too often, I am certain about what I need…and how unwilling I am to hear other options. I have been that young man. I have said, “No, that won’t do. That won’t fix my problem. What I need is this. Now, either deliver or leave me alone.”
I found myself wondering if we are truly open to letting others help us? Will you let me help you? Will I let you help me? Isn’t that sort of what the body of Christ is supposed to be about? “People helping people…It’s powerful stuff!”
If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.
4 thoughts on “Let Me Help”
Sometimes the help that people need is to feel a sense of empowerment and not necessarily a handout of any kind. If you offer your help and grant an immediate fix to a person in need, does that mean you have done your christian duty and so you can with a good heart turn and leave? How much of a commitment of things other than a “quick” fix are you willing to offer? Will this young man be welcome at your parties and would he be allowed in your home or around your children? Would your help come in little secret ways or would it be an open, honest and supportive kind of gift? Personally, being someone else’s mission project has never sat well with me. I think that most people want to help other’s as much as they want to be helped. It would be so much better to have someone come help with the yard work knowing what the gift is, the reason the helper is there and then being able as the “helpee” to go outside and participate in the labor.
My sister lives in a Habitat Home and has for about 12 years now. She has three children and no husband in the home. She has no education, but has a job as a housekeeper at a local hospital. She is very proud. And I am proud of her. The Habitat for Humanity program requires that the potential owner complete work hours to the program in order to qualify for it. My sister was 8 months pregnant as she was finishing her hours. She had the opportunity to sit at a desk doing paperwork in her condition. She chose to climb ladders, dry wall and do physical things that wouldn’t put her or the baby in danger. The skills she picked up doing the work has helped her with the up~keep on her home. Whenever the story of pregnant Jamie and the ladder is told, my sister beams.
We really need to be conscious of our words (I’m horrible with that myself.) This is an example of how words can change people. A friend of mine worked hard trying to make her life matter and when she was diagnosed with a devastating disease she felt she needed to educate people about the disease in order to cope with it. She had never supported any project or cause about her disease and felt guilty because it had touched her life a couple of times before. She worked on a project to raise funds for her support cause because she wanted to make a difference. It was hard on her but it seemed that people cared. Then one day she over~heard a conversation about money and how it wasn’t her cause that was important but scamming people was. This devastated my friend to the point of never wanting to help with anything ever again. She spent a lot of time trying to figure out why someone would say that about her. It changed her faith in people and she doesn’t like even being around them now. Being told over and over she knows how to “play the system” keeps her shackled, with her worthless feelings not allowing her to apply for some government programs that she needs and would qualify for, she goes without so she isn’t labeled a “taker.” She doesn’t go out on the days she feels okay because my God, what if she runs into one of those people who thinks she plays the system?
Went to observe a meeting once of christian ladies who were preparing gift boxes for mother’s at christmas. (Not my church) They were debating about putting Walmart Gift cards in. Every single lady sitting the table had a story about a person using gift monies to buy cigarette’s and alcohol. They decided that they would shop for things instead of sending the cards. Wonder how the people receiving these gift boxes would like to know that they were judged, condemned and punished because the church didn’t trust them enough?
Do you know the feeling of being so broken and alone that you don’t know why you get up? Do you know what it is like to try to make others aware of this and they can’t hear you or they want to put a band-aide on your gushy carotid? Have you ever only felt welcome because you’re a project? Have you ever been invited because someone feels guilty?
I don’t think that the message in the Bible verse you chose was Jesus saying that you are to abandon your neighbor because he wouldn’t take your gift. Or that you should guard your heart just because the person you proclaim to love see’s your gift as anything other than a project.
Write on friend write on.
these are good points, Jonnie.
I chose the quoted verse because this kid didn’t really want “help” he wanted “cash” and, in reality “cash” wouldn’t have helped his situation. So, at the end of the day, I had to just “shake the dust” because I tried the best I could to offer “help” instead of just getting him off to his next fix. Does that make sense?
Would he be welcome with my children? heck no. why? i don’t know him…his story made him sound unsafe and unstable. therefore, it would have been extremely unwise for me to bring this guy into my home.
Would he be welcome in my church? Of course. Would he be welcome to share a meal with me? Definitely. He didn’t want any of those things…just cash.
I don’t think the kid saw himself as a project…he didn’t want to do anything to get help.
Not at all a personal attack, just thought provoking scenario’s for someone who is following your blog to ponder in regards to helping other’s. It seems directed to you because it’s your blog. =) Though an extreme example the stuff about having the helpee to dinner or be around your children is about belonging more than anything else. Belonging and Mortality has been the theme to my poems lately. What am I leaving here and does it matter?
I quote that Bible verse a little too much at times without realizing that it further pushes people away. You explained the things you tried to do to help, but I wanted other reader’s to ask themselves what they do to help others and are there conditions to their giving?
Still trying to teach I guess. =)
good stuff, Jonnie!