I had no doubt I would encounter this dilemma but it has been compounded by a book suggested to me by both Keith McFarland (principal of the Institute of Childcare and Family) and Jonnes Bakimi (co-director of New Hope Uganda). It is called "When Helping Hurts-How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself" by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert. I understand that material poverty is not the only poverty and in fact, as a westerner, I struggle with, what they would call, "poverty of being." Essentially a "god complex." Admittedly, my heart can think, if I have money or possessions, I can alleviate this person's problems because all they need is a little financial boost and their life will be better. When, in fact, I don't have a clue what they need. Does that excuse my need to get involved? On the contrary, it forces me to get further involved.
I haven't gotten all the way through the book but am only 1/3 through but facing the paradox in my life and situation. How do I help? Truly help without going deeper into poverty myself or sending someone else deeper into poverty. There is no question I must help and especially help the poor and needy but how? My favorite interrogative. How?
Case and point: a young boy from the village came to ask for any small job I might have. I gave him some work and he worked very hard for over an hour. When he was done, I asked him to take the tools to the shed. I kept an eye on him since I didn't know him very well. Unfortunately, he came out with my machete, walked over to one of our fruit trees and cut down a rather large fruit, went into the bushes and began to eat it. I was very disappointed and went out to talk with him about his hard work, the fairness of my wages I had already paid him, about trust and relationship, and about stealing. Poverty. I have it. He has it. Just in different ways. How do I alleviate poverty without hurting both of us. Any ideas are welcome...
Only by God's grace, Tim