Giving Dignity

This time of year, most Americans think about charitable giving — sharing what we have with those who have less. I’m going to share what I’ve learned this year and how it’s changed how I think about giving.

Ray Bakke said in A Heart for the City, “I’ve concluded that poverty is not so much the absence of money as the absence of power.”

The absence of power. Being powerless. People caught in poverty generally describe their condition in how it influences them psychologically, not the physical disadvantages. Poor people lose their dignity very quickly.

Relief is common this time of the year. Many people provide gifts for the kids of disadvantaged families.

I heard about this idea recently: the Family Store. Donor families would drop off their gifts at the Gift Shop, and needy parents would buy the gifts for something like 1/10th of the store price.

This is an amazing gift to the parents. The parents get to provide their kids with Christmas gifts and see the excitement on their kid’s little faces as they tear the gifts open. I’ve learned that people in poverty need to be empowered, not continually reminded of their inadequacy.

I’m not trying to guilt-trip you. I’m not trying to display my collegiate wisdom. I still don’t know how I’m going to apply this to my life. My urban ministry professor said it’s hard to give wisely.

Is my giving helping this person? Or is it only making me feel good … quelling that guilt in my belly? Now I have to ask myself these questions.

Here’s a video from Bob Lupton in which he talks about the Family Store idea: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pD2EHX3uf4k.

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