Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Help the Poor


“Help the poor” is or was a phrase used during my Halloween Days growing up in Detroit. For Halloween it was clear, you took from the person who had it to help the person in need, namely yourself. But what happens when roles are reversed and you are asked to “Help the poor”?

The conceptual gulf between those who give and those who receive is huge. It is like getting candy. The recipient should be grateful for getting anything, even if they wanted a Snickers bar and got an apple instead. As the donor, you want a blessing, a sign of gratitude, or even a simple “Thank You” to acknowledge your generosity. The problem lies in that neither the recipient nor the donor ever feels the transaction was fair. The recipient didn’t get what they wanted or needed and the donor feels unfulfilled. As a result, gifts such as traffic lights, which are disregarded and new markets, which are unfit for either buyer or seller, happen all the time; both parties trying to make the best of good intentions.

As I ponder my Peace Corps mission and live among the poor, I grabble with the question of just what do the poor want from the rich. Certainly people will take “stuff” when it is offered, but stuff without the recognition of a person’s dignity is just that, “stuff”. Dignity comes without any strings attached to it. People want to be appreciated for who they are, what they believe, and their way of life, not who you are. Giving without preconditions is a large order. Maybe the only reward is internally; you tried your best to “Help the Poor”.

1 comment:

MNBen said...

As a poor person, or one that is not rich, what I want from the rich is for them to live the lifestyle of the less fortunate. drive a used beater, shop at garage sales, buy generic Cheerios, harvest a garden, make your own wine, and barter with your well known neighbors for goods and services.

I am healthy. I am loved. I love. I am happy. I am poor. Thank god I am not one of the rich, although I feel what I give to others is appreciated an I feel rewarding because I know the giving will continue.

You have given Nick, more than I probably ever will. Feel proud of your efferts. Your village friends appreciate what you have done. If you do not see it now, they will feel it when you leave.