Sometimes justice is sticky.
Hitting the recreation center at a low income housing community was the last thing on my wish list a few weeks ago. I like my Saturday mornings wrapped in one-third coffee and two-thirds quiet.
On this particular Saturday, I adjusted my attitude, grabbed my huge candy bag and headed out to join our latest church Incarnation Project–a mobile Fall Festival. This community center was our morning location; another was chosen for the afternoon.
It was unusually empty for a play area, but slowly kids arrived to check out the various games and craft activities scattered across the asphalt. The smell of hot dogs and popcorn was a huge draw. Free candy didn’t hurt either.
Single mothers and grandparents accompanied many of the younger children. I interviewed some who could speak English and learned that few fathers lived in the complex.
A single parent on inadequate income will take whatever housing is available. That seemed to be the situation in this location of town. A welfare check or a low paying job provided little of life’s privileges for these people. Many of the blessings I take for granted were not even on their radar.
Folks do reap what they sow, but it doesn’t seem fair. Children are not responsible for their parent’s choices or for life’s hardships.
Where was the justice for these kids?
A friend commented on how hard it was for him growing up in a poor community and receiving gifts from those who seemed to have so much more then he did. “I loved the candy, but felt shamed. I wanted the gifts, but felt resentful towards those who had so much more then we did.”
I didn’t know how to respond to his statement.
In trying to bring a little justice into children’s lives, was I also causing them to feel shame?
I know a small amount of justice was being served that day in the form of candy and games. Yet, in thinking over my friend’s remark, I realized that it was sticky justice. I am still processing the comment; and I still have some leftover sticky candy in my bag.
What do you think?
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This Post Has 7 Comments
I feel your title was very appropriate. It is hard to know sometimes if a person is just suffereing from their own poor choices or past mistakes. We do have to suffer the consequences of our doings, but it is hard to see children having to suffer because of their parents. But as I think about it, our choices always involve more than ourselves, even though we might now think so. I think as these children or anyone else for that matter that is affected by someone elses choices, such as a married couple, will turn to the Lord and seek Him as they hear and learn about Him, justice in the Lord will be lived out. If we are walking in the Lord, no matter where we live, how poor or rich materially we are, what our circumstances are at all, know how we are supposed to live and function in those circumstances.
I’m not sure if I got this out clearly. I hope so.
Thanks Susan for your wonderful spirit and wisdom in the Lord.
That is a great insight, Sandy. The love and prayer that is interwoven in these activities is the catalyst for a child turning and encountering Jesus, which, as you mentioned, is the real point of such service. If those ingredients are missing, then we are limited in justice. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this.
Ya know Susan,
something that I’ve noticed time and time again in working with the underprivledged is that they are truely thankful, especially the children. Just the pure gift of your changed attitude and time I bet was a giant blessing. Most of these kids suffer from neglect, for this reason or that i’m not going to judge, but they are always super thankful for someone to show them that they they are loved. That they are cared for. You went and not only showed them that you cared, but also shared with them about Jesus. What a true blessing
Thanks for that encouragement, Lyn. I had never thought of the “shame” aspect of ministering before when doing acts of kindness and extending what I felt was service. The comment by my friend caught me off guard and gave me food for thought. Not everyone looks at what I give through the eyes of appreciation–I had missed that somewhere. It doesn’t mean I stop working with the underprivledged, just that I make sure to give more then time or things. People seem to know when you are giving of yourself as part of the package. Kingdom justice always costs us something personally, I believe. Again, thank you for your insights.
“Sticky” is certainly a good adjective. Often, we as Christians feel we have done what God has commanded by donating money or making a kamikaze charity run, but we go home to comfortable houses and somewhat stable lives. So in that sense we are not always willing to make ourselves vulnerable and more available, and those on the receiving end I’m sure feel that.
On the other side of the coin, though: The last time I served at a local place that cooks a meal for the homeless, I was struck by the fact that giving them freebies week after week was putting food in their bellies, but they were not being helped in other necessary ways. Their sense of self-esteem, as well as their sense of responsibility, would be increased by requiring something of them. If they had to set the table, set up chairs, help in clean-up, wouldn’ that be better than we “rich” condescending to hand out food day after day, week after week. It is a mixed bag and certainly there are those in the group who have prohibitive mental or physical disabilities. But I think the model of giving from a distance is an easy way out. The sticky part might be clinging to a hand for more than a day, but that is scary, complicated, and sometimes dangerous. Wisdom, Lord! And that doesn’t mean because we’re not doing service perfectly we stop serving; we just keep seeking direction and doing what we can.
It’s SO true Susan…..the truth can REALLY hurt, and this is a very good example. I met this ALL the time during my 20 years on the mission filed, and to be honest I wrestled with it the whole time. I don’t have an answer, but all I knew was that doing nothing was even more unacceptable! And there I rest my case and my conscience.
I remember when in Calcutta, India, the need was SO great that it overwhelmed me and I would arrive at Mark Buntane’s Church every day in abject sorrow and tears. After a few days of watching me arrive in this sorry, ‘defeated’ state, Mark pulled me aside and said quietly ” Moira, you HAVE to see God BIGGER than the problem” That is how he was able to spend his whole life serving and ministering in the midst of the poverty in India. I never forgot that.
Lilly and Moira, you have both added insightful perspectives. Thank you!
Lilly, Seeking to add dignity through participation can change the dynamics for people. When we have people stop by the church and request help or cash, Tom asks them to donate some time cleaning up the church yard. For the poor, that adds dignity–they are working for pay. For the lazy, Tom’s offer weeds them out–they just leave. I know this strategy can’t work in every situation, but perhaps we can look for ways to involve those we serve. Maybe we need to look at our service with that in mind whenever possible.
Moira, your thoughts from the mission field add a deeper dimension to the discussion. Seeing God as bigger than the problem is an ongoing struggle for those who serve non-stop, I’m sure. I find the thought overwhelming, let alone the reality of living and serving among the poor. Hearing your comments as one who has lived this struggle puts a face to the emotional part of service. Thank you for giving us one of your treasured life insights.