|Renewing American Compassion: |
How compassion for the needy
can turn ordinary citizens into heroes
by: Marvin Olasky
For your perusal and consideration, here's an excerpt from the book:
"Today, we have lots of theories about fighting poverty, but it is not necessary to be moving in the theoretical plane. Americans know how to fight poverty. We had successful antipoverty programs a century ago, successful because they embodied personal involvement and challenge, both material and spiritual.
This vital story has generally been ignored by liberal historians, but the documented history goes like this: during the 19th century a successful war on poverty was waged by tens of thousands of local, private charitable agencies and religious groups around the country. The platoons of the greatest charity army in American history often were small. They were made up of volunteers led by poorly paid but deeply dedicated professional managers. And they were effective. ...And the optimism prevalent then contrasts sharply with the demoralization among the poor and the cynicism among the better-off that is so common now.
What was their secret? It was not neglect, either benign or malign. It is their understanding of the literal and biblical meaning of compassion, which comes from two Latin words: com, with, and pati, to suffer. The word points to personal involvement with the needy, suffering with them, not just giving to them. "Suffering with" means adopting hard-to-place babies, providing shelter to women undergoing crisis pregnancies, becoming a big brother to a fatherless child, working one-on-one with a young, single mother. It's not easy--but it is effective.
...our predecessors made moral demands on recipients of aid. They saw family, work, freedom, and faith as central to our being, not as lifestyle options. The volunteers gave of their own lives not just so that others might survive, but that they might thrive."
If we were honest with ourselves, if I am honest with myself, this kind of compassion, while biblical is less than comfortable. It often requires more out of us than we think we are willing to give. But I wonder if that's not because we stress ourselves out about the idea before we ever start to put it into practice. How many times have I "psyched" myself out over something before I ever got started? Is that not exactly what Satan wants us to do? To quit before we start so that we never accomplish anything in our lives.
How many times has this happened to you??? I can tell you it has happened to me more times than I care to admit. One thing I have discovered though is that God has never called me to do anything that He has not already prepared me for, or that He is incapable of helping me through. And for that matter, if I was capable of doing it all on my own, it stands to reason that I would do it on my own, and He would never get any of the glory.
Here's something to consider:
One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.
How can you refresh somebody today? Who can you refresh today? Has someone been on your mind that you keep meaning to call and you keep getting busy and forget? When was the last time you wrote someone a letter? Visited a sick friend? Visited your mother? What about that friend from high school you keep meaning to call and make a date for coffee? Do you have a relative in a nursing home you could visit for a few hours? You'd be surprised at how little it can take to make someone's day. Give it a try. Put yourself, your troubles, your issues, on the back burner for a while and focus strictly on someone else. You'll be amazed at how much better you feel and how the severity of your problems, when compared to someone else's, seems to fade just a bit.
Something I heard one time:
If you and everyone you know could write down your problems on a piece of paper and throw them all into a hat and you were asked to pass the hat around and pull out any problem you wanted, you'd reach in and pull out your own. It may seem bad to you because you are the one going through it, but would you really trade your issues for anyone else's? If you wouldn't, then you have options. Either fix it, or don't. If you aren't going to fix it, then stop complaining and take things the way they are. If you can fix it, stop complaining and do it. Either way, the complaining is pointless.
Anyway, I know I get to sounding like a preachy, nagging mom, but it's only because I had a good teacher (Thanks, Mom!). But trust that all this is focused straight back at me.