When Helping Hurts

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By: Derrick Engoy (article was originally posted here)

Laundry Love has been very close to my heart for the past few years. We’ve been serving the Harbor City area and making lasting friendships since 2009.

If you’re unsure as to what LL is, it’s simple. You and a bunch of friends adopt a laundry mat, show up on a consistent periodic basis, provide quarters so folks can do laundry, and make friends with those you serve along the way. The beautiful thing about LL is, it isn’t meant to be a touch and go project. It’s meant to be a vehicle that builds bridges between communities and foster ongoing friendships.

With that said, I’m wondering what your thoughts are on community service projects and the tendency they have of giving off the impression that those who are serving are merely serving “those people.” When we position ourselves, with good intensions of course, to serve the community, it’s easy to create a divide that communicates “us” vs “them.” Instead, we should serve our communities with the intentions of becoming “one of those people.”

In other words, when does helping hurt?

How about you?

Let’s talk.

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2 thoughts on “When Helping Hurts

  1. Had a similar thought last night about the Oklahoma Tornadoes. This does not diminish the efforts that are going there right now, but I wonder why people are so willing to say “prayers” or send money to these global tragedies, and yet don’t spend one second with “those people” in their neighborhoods and local cities. The church may be the worst culprit. We’ve designated ministries of helping the poor to a separate kitchen or a park that is neutral ground, and yet those same poor and homeless will never step foot in the modern church. Why? The homeless man might be too loud or the kids who don’t have nice enough clothes for church would probably get made fun of. And the list goes on. The question is, “How do we get the church, and the Christians in them, to live in harmony with those that are on an economic level below them?” That’s not even a paradigm shift! That’s a freakin new way of life! (I think Christ might have said some words about how to do that though) 🙂 And the journey continues…

    1. That’s right! It’s very important that we eliminate the thinking of “us vs. them” or, as you put it, “those people”. We need to become “those people” so that our reality transforms us into understanding that “we are one”. It’s only when “we” become “them” that we’re more inclined to help locally because they are now a part of who we are. It’s no longer a charitable act of giving. It becomes a lifestyle of taking care of your own.

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