In my marriage, my husband is the solution-driven-problem-solving-quick-fix guy. Broken toilet? He’s got that. Computer not loading? He’ll figure it out. If there’s an issue, he’ll fix it. This is not only true of material dilemmas, but emotional ones, too. I explain something that is perplexing me and he’ll try to find a solution. If I discuss how poorly my day went, he’ll analyze it and add suggestions on how to make my remaining day better. I love his ideas and willingness to help. But sometimes, what I need most from my “quick fix” husband is for him not to act, but just listen.
Honestly, this video says it all. Occasionally, we’ll watch this video together and laugh because this is us. And you better believe I’ve used the phrase “it’s not about the nail” once or twice in our household!
All joking aside, many of our clients here don’t have “quick fix” solutions to the circumstances they’re facing. I’ve noticed in ministry that there is a high success rate with getting folks to help with short-term projects: volunteering to work the water station at a local race, spending the day at the food pantry, or donating material goods to Salvation Army. Don’t misunderstand me, these projects are all important, and all necessary! However, most of the difficulties our clients face are not “short-term” and require patience and a long-term perspective.
The ministry at Choices is relationally focused, and relationships take time to develop. In the book When Helping Hurts, Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett, two Community Development professors at Covenant College, share “Typically, the biggest challenge that ministries face is an insufficient number of people who are willing to invest the time and energy that it takes to walk through time with a needy individual or family. Finding armies of people to volunteer one Saturday per year to paint dilapidated houses is easy. Find people to love the people, day in and day out, who live in those houses is extremely difficult” (210).
Building long term relationships starts with the first interaction between the client and the staff at Choices. How can we at Choices effectively communicate our desire to walk alongside a client for the long haul?
A common trait I see amongst our clients is their own, personal weight of shame. Whatever their situation, a client has to humbly ask our staff for help. Western thinking regards poverty as a lack of material belongings. However, Corbett and Fikkert correctly point out that poverty has an emotional and spiritual dimension. “Shame, inferiority, powerlessness, humiliation, fear, hopelessness, depression, social isolation, and voicelessness” are just a few terms poor people associate with poverty (51). Loving people long term begins with our initial interactions. Our words, tone, and body language matter. At Choices, we seek to communicate that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23) and we all need grace. There is no such thing as hierarchy at the foot of the cross. Fikkert and Corbett remind us, “…until we embrace our mutual brokenness, our work with low-income people is likely to do far more harm than good” (61).
It is time we break down those barriers of shame, humiliation, and social isolation. Let’s be intentional and love well, friends. It takes time and effort, but here at Choices, we’re in it for the long haul. We’re all broken, but thankfully we all have access to grace. So, how about you? Are you in it for the quick fix or the long haul?