I really liked this article from The Middle Ground – http://themiddleground.sg/2015/09/30/going-beyond-good-intentions/
It sums up the philosophy behind Dirty Hands ministry.
We need to be a lot more intentional about the way we do charity.
So often i see folks emptying their wardrobe of clothes they no longer wear, things they no longer want – but a lot of it are broken, torn, and really more suitable for the garbage bin than for another human being.
Charity should be about love.
An excerpt from the article:
“I remember an incident my husband related to me. A well-off boy had given his sunglasses to one of the village boys and he was roundly told off by my husband. Wasn’t it an act of charity and kindness for him to give his sunglasses to someone who had none? He did it out of good intentions, didn’t he? My husband had to help him understand a key principle of community development – that any ‘helping’ group by their very presence in the village has already brought a disruption to the community’s patterns, and therefore, it was vital to ensure that it was a positive disruption.
Thus, the act of giving that pair of sunglasses may have unintended consequences such as dividing friendships the recipient might have when he shows the gift to his mates or that helping groups in such a way inevitably creates unhealthy expectations in the recipients of the next ‘helping’ group that comes along.
The road to hell, as the proverb goes, is paved with good intentions.
My husband was very strict about the ‘gifts’ his team brought for the village. Second-hand clothes were collected from staff and students, but these were sorted out long before they got on the coach to Harbourfront. Spaghetti-strapped blouses and t-shirts with inappropriate pictures and words were set aside, as were winter wear. Clothes too ‘holely’ or too faded were destined for the bins, because the recipients never asked for these gifts. But if we brought gifts – even pre-loved ones, they ought to be gifts that strengthen the recipients’ dignity and self-respect, and that uphold the community’s norms.
Stationery and coloured pencils for the children in the village school were bought, so that all the children would have the same items, with a view of aligning utility and unity. The lesson to the Singaporean kids was that it is not just the act of giving but being intentional about the giving. Giving what people really need is essential. It’s not what we think they need, or worse – that our giving is framed by our own definitions of needs and wants. My husband showed me pictures of their subsequent trips. The children had used their precious gifts to draw pictures of the ‘abangs’ who distributed the items to them, and would run to show our Singaporean students proudly that they still had them.”
Let us be thoughtful about how we give, and how we love.