Helping People to Flourish
May 16th, 2017
Breaking poverty’s grip, ending economic oppression. Those are two noble goals. They may also be too big for me. I’ve thought a lot lately about WHY. Why is UCOM here? Why am I at UCOM? What are our goals?
By May Day I had broken the “why” of UCOM down to the two lofty goals above, but I couldn’t get my teeth into either of them. Neither seemed doable in my lifetime. Breaking poverty’s grip and ending economic oppression were jobs many people have worked on for a lifetime. Centuries have come and gone, and still there remains poverty and economic oppression.
A smaller goal
Pondering this, I wondered if a smaller goal would still be worthy of a lifetime of effort. Could I be content if I spent the remainder of my productive years helping people to flourish? When I cast the net too widely the effort seems gargantuan. I feel like I am trying to save all the starfish that get stranded on the beach at low tide, but if I can get one and then two and then ten back into the water, it will make a world of difference to those rescued starfish.
I expend more energy than I have when I try to help everyone. I am overwhelmed when I see the world teeming with injustice. What can I do in the face of so many obstacles? What is it that all of struggling humanity needs? How can one person begin to meet all those needs?
A deeper relationship
When my goal is to help people flourish, I am inviting a deeper relationship with individuals. “We cannot do everything, but we can do something.” Helping people to flourish is a goal that invites delving deeper—deeper than what can be seen in the presenting need, deeper than programs can go—all the way into where people feel. That is a place where we all share common human responses. There is the commonality, not in doing for the masses, but in relating to one individual at a time. I can do that.
A shared goal
In thinking that through, I came to another conclusion. UCOM and I have a lot in common. UCOM does not compare in numbers with our big sisters like The Salvation Army Family Services or Goodwill or Hope Network. So what we can’t do in width, we try to do in depth. Our staff and volunteers make an effort to know people by name, to listen to the stories they tell, to see behind the curtain. Now what can we do to be present to this one person? After we have addressed the presenting need, can we delve deeper, until we are all the way to the essence of our neighbor?
UCOM is 32 years old this year. We have been doing the same kind of work day after day. Poverty is not eliminated, people are still oppressed, but some people got the deep connection that they needed—that human and divine connection—to help them to flourish. Maybe that’s good enough for today.