“I have trouble asking for help.” “I don’t like to be indebted to people.” “I don’t want to be needy.”
These are phrases with which many of us in North America are all too familiar. On a cognitive level, I can tell you what’s wrong – and even irrational – about those statements. But, something I feel at a deep level often contradicts what I know in my mind.
A central value of Food for the Hungry (FH) is that in walking with the poor, we experience transformation. I’ve seen capable, strong people receive help in countries around the world. In the process of receiving that help, they are both transformed and offer transformation to those who are in the helping role.
I encountered transformation in my own life recently. I walked into the Chase Field baseball stadium in downtown Phoenix, not to watch the Arizona Diamondbacks, but to participate in an event that provided goods and services to more than 10,000 metro-Phoenix residents for free.
It was a logical extension of my values as a Christian and my work at FH – helping people in need from my own community. Indeed, anyone could show up and receive free medical, dental or vision care, along with food, clothing, haircuts, employment services, housing services, spiritual support and more.
Upon arriving at Hopefest, I parked my car and hastily made my way to the station where I was scheduled to serve. The stadium was buzzing with activity, and I enjoyed people watching. Some people looked a little rough around the edges, others were burdened with small children, but none were too proud to come take advantage of an event that was designed to share blessings freely.
Then, a thought came to my mind. As a yet unregistered volunteer without my yellow volunteer shirt, I was in the mix with everyone else who showed up to get help. Maybe the service providers wondered if I was going to get in the haircut line, the dental checkup line or even needed someone to pray for me.
I suddenly felt a bit unprotected, maybe somewhat misunderstood. All because I lacked my yellow volunteer shirt.
But during the trek down the concourse toward my destination, I began to feel peace with the idea that someone may try to offer me free services or think that I may need something.
The fact is, I do need things. I need things that I can’t afford. And I have been given things that I’ll never, ever be able to buy…whether that is my faith, my citizenship in a prosperous country or my education from kindergarten on up. The bottom line is that we are all much more dependent and interdependent than we’d often like to acknowledge. Ultimately, we need the Giver of all good gifts (James 1:17). We were made with this need for God and one another.
In his excellent book Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace, Miroslav Volf writes: “To live in sync with who we really are means to recognize that we are dependent on God for our very breath and are graced with many good things; it means to be grateful to the giver and attentive to the purpose for which the gifts are given.”
I did finally get to the point of donning the yellow volunteer shirt. But, by the time I got to the shirt table, I didn’t really want one. While the shirt served a practical purpose, it distanced me from the others who had showed up for Hopefest.
Hopefully the experience helped me remember that I am graced with many good things. And, I am just one more person who is called to give out of what has been given to me. Maybe I even need to ask for help. I hope you do, too.
FH’s focus is walking with communities to end poverty. “With” is one of the most profound words in the statement. Because when we are with people, we see that at times we need to be the helper and at times we need help. I’ve see that this is true in witnessing FH’s work around the world. If you have not already considered joining in that walk with FH, how about taking a step today? It’s transformative.