we've been giving clothes to a young family since their son was born a little over a year ago. they've struggled to get by on a little over 200 us dollars a month. and the dad really does work hard for what he brings in. i've been on a soap box about this hand-out thing for awhile now but without really looking into our ways of giving. this same family has got me wondering how to do this better.
i was peaved once when the mom asked if i could get her some formula - breastfeeding was just too time consuming for her. Whatever, i get it, not everyone has the patience to breastfeed, so i let it go. but i did explain to her women have milk to feed our children, and if you don't have money to buy milk in a can, then you do it naturally (i'm somewhat of a breastfeeding dictator when it comes to not wanting to do it as opposed to not being able to do it). and no, we can't help you buy milk, you have free milk. i don't know what she did - probably the same as a lot of other poor women who won't breastfeed -undernourish their babies with rice water or juice or tea. i was willing and able to help them, especially with clothes and whenever we'd go to the campo, food. (free root vegetables, fruit, veggies, yum!) i mean, what good is hoarding wealth? this family is struggling to feed themselves, and we (though we often complain about not having enough) are doing quite well.
just the other day they stopped by with baby. i looked at the mom and realized that she's pregnant again and has braces on her teeth. what?
i asked her about the braces - maybe she had a tooth condition i didn't ever notice before? maybe she had teeth pulled and was realigning?
son de lujo. she says.
they're for show.
for show? braces cost more than your husband makes in five months, but you got luxury braces? no money for birth control or to buy milk for your child, but you get "braces de lujo"? you have got to be kidding me.
i've been struggling with this whole idea for awhile now. we're blessed. extremely and immensely blessed. we have good health and financially we're sound. that's not the case for so many people in the world. and living and working where we do, we know, and are reminded of how blessed we really are.
but where is the line between being a hand up and being an enabler? if we help too much, we create dependency, yet if we don't use our gifts and resources, we are part of the oppressive cycle that keeps people down.
my friend, rebecca, wrote about something similar to this on her blog and it helped me realize that it is a horrible cycle. when we give things away without holding people responsible to themselves it's like we're saying "you're not worth my time and effort. take this and go."
so, how can you give responsibly? how can we use the resources and gifts we've been given to lift up those living around us (not just in the dr, but anywhere we live) and to break cycles of poverty? what do i do about the family who has money for unnecessary orthodontia, but not for milk for their children?
i'm stuck on this, so i'm looking for help. what do you do in these situations? how have you found ways to give and serve without creating that dependency?