Tuesday, February 21, 2012

hand up, not a hand out.

 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?


Anonymous said...

Wow Melanie - that is really a tough one. I remember the homeless guy at Dunkin Donuts. He was always looking for a hand out but I knew he would buy booze with it. I would offer him food, but he wanted money. One Christmas season I just caved and gave him a twenty. I begged him not to buy liquor with it - but I'm sure he did. I came to the conclusion that, while my responsibility as a Christian is to offer help to those who need it, it is not my place to judge what they do with that offer. You can pray that they make wise choices, offer advice and support, but you cannot make someone do what you know in your heart is the best thing for their family. Leave it to the Lord to judge. Continue to do what you can to make sure those babies are healthy, but stop short of giving more than the necessities. Give a man a fish and he eats for a day - teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime. But if he refuses to learn how to fish - make sure his children are well.

Love ya!

Jennifer Larancuent said...

even though I think that we as ellow humans should do what we can to help out, I just don't think I could stomach continuing to give money/clothes/any sort of aid to someone who would buy braces "de lujo" when she doesn't have enough to feed her child, or someone who would fix their nails/go out drinking etc when there's no food at home - kids or no kids. I think that if you give to a random person passing you on the street, you're well aware that there is no control over what happens with what you have given away - but when it's a family who continues to ask for help it's different. It's hard though, I don't know what the right thing to do is. Either we accept that we give and that person will end up doing what they want with it, or we stop giving to that person. I think I would have wanted to sit down and talk to her, tell her how I felt about trying to help out but feeling it really didn't help i she would buy something completely unnecessary when there isn't enough food for her kids. Because then there are other people who would need my help more (unless they were a gift). It's sounds hard and I'm not that kind of person who is hard on others, but my point is that there are so many people suffering and that maybe could use the help more. But again, I don't know. Just thinking out loud.