When my Helping has Hurt – a shared post of Sarah Binos

  Sarah Binos is the Executive Director of the Common Ground church initiative and non-profit known as ‘Common Good’ – she wrote this article ‘4 Common giving mistakes I’ve made’ on the Common Good blog page and you should totally go and read the full article, but here are some excerpts which stood out for me.   Instead of giving you a blueprint for giving – because there isn’t one! – here are some of the mistakes I’ve made in the area of giving. Hopefully this will equip others not to do the same! Mistake #1 I haven’t prioritised building relationships enough as I try to live out Christ’s call to do justice My friend explained how much it would have meant if her donor had been more like a distant aunt – who checked in with her occasionally and saw her as a person with hopes and dreams as opposed to a project. Mistake #2 In my attempt to “fix things”, I’ve communicated that “I am the adult and you are the child” Instead of engaging, asking insightful questions and giving the person I hope to bless the space to process and think through a way forward, I present a quick solution with a whole lot of uninvited advice. This can communicate the idea that I’m wiser, and...

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When it stops [or maybe doesn’t even start] being about them.

A camera pans onto a young black girl from a perspective slightly above her. She stands alone in a field in an unnamed, unidentifiable location, looking away with a forlorn look on her face, never meeting the camera’s gaze. The voiceover: “This is Daniella. She’s nine. And her body is racked with pain from parasites; the same kind that killed her sister. Without help, Daniella could be next.” A single tear falls down Daniella’s face, as she now sits in a concrete doorway with no door, looking down. The opening paragraph from this article titled ‘Poverty porn and a new way to regard social impact‘ by Yasha Wallin. which poses some really great questions linked to the greater questions of short term missions trips and relief aid in general. Books like ‘When Helping Hurts’ and ‘Toxic Charity’ have recently drawn our attention to the idea that not all of the helpful things we attempt, may necessarily be helpful for those on the receiving end. This is accompanied by a similar article I came across via a friend of mine today titled ‘The ethics of photographing locals’ by Christie Long, in which she takes a closer look at the ‘tourism’ of poor people for the purposes of the Facebook status, the Instagram pic or the ‘Ooh, ah, you changed the world...

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Businessman giving food to homeless man

What if we were able to give a homeless person a hand up?

To give or not to give? That is the question many of us ask ourselves when faced with a homeless person.  Ranging from “Surely I would just be fuelling their drink/drug problem” to “Well, at least I’m giving them something” there are clearly divided opinions on whether the ‘little we do’ is going to be of any kind of genuine assistance, or whether it is simply going to help keep them on the streets by creating codependency and reducing motivation to “go out and get a job”. Books like Toxic Charity and When Helping Hurts and others have addressed some of this in detail often leaving potential do gooders feeling confused and nervous about trying to help at all. That’s where HandUp comes in as demonstrated powerfully in this article titled ‘How a homeless person moved an audience of tech workers to tears at Launch conference.’: ‘HandUp is a relatively new service that lets you donate directly to homeless individuals in your neighborhood. 100 percent of the donations go to the essentials, like food, clothing, and medical care. What stands out about HandUp is the human touch: Individuals can share their stories and ask for specific items, like dentures or a new phone. Once they’ve signed up, HandUp members are provided with a profile card with basic biographical information, which they can...

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How do I judge my Charity?

In a world with so much suffering, so much pain, and so much grief, it is easy to become overwhelmed. But some folks push through.  They push through the paralysis of panic, and look for ways to help their fellow man.  You’ve been tempted with this phenomena.  You may not realize it, but you have been.  How do I know?  Because you’ve seen the panhandler with outstretched fist asking for spare change.  You’ve seen the TV ad explaining how you can feed a child for less than the cost of a cup of coffee.  You’ve watched someone you know, or heard the story of a friend of a friend that was in need of money. This post is not about the reality of whether you ‘gave’ or not.  (Personally, I hope you were compelled to ‘give’). But rather this post is about the more metaphysical question of whether you ‘should give’ or not. Did you know that giving can hurt?  Have you ever read the stories of individuals and communities who suffered greatly because of good intentions, but misdirected actions?  If you haven’t, I’d suggest that you check out either: (1) When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert or (2) Toxic Charity by Lupton.  Both should be available from your neighborhood Christian bookstore. Surprised to hear that ‘Christian’ authors...

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Is the picture of the child on your fridge simply there to make you feel better?

In June of this year, Christianity today ran an article by Bruce Wydick titled ‘Want to Change the World? Sponsor a Child: A top economist shares the astounding news about that little picture hanging on our refrigerator.’ It is a lengthy six page article, but I encourage you to set aside ten minutes or print it out and read it when you do have time as it is such an encouraging piece looking a little bit more scientifically at the effects of sponsorship of a child from a poor community than we are maybe used to. Books like ‘When Healing Hurts’ and ‘Toxic Charity’ have asked some great questions about the kind of work that missions teams and others have done and some of the negative effects that it can have in a community as well as on individuals. And it is important that we ask these questions and continue to try and find more effective ways of helping others who are less fortunate than ourselves. But what I have found is that those kind of sentiments can really start to paralyse people from doing anything at all because of fear of the damage we might do, and that extreme is equally less helpful. ‘Indeed, every time we provide something for someone else in need, we send a subtle message...

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