“When Help Is Not Helpful”
As UUs we are a people of compassion. We see need and our first impulse is to reach out and help. We are good that way. It’s what drives our commitment to social justice. Much of that work is done through the UU Service Committee (UUSC) which responds to situations and needs globally and has since its founding in WW II. One of the key missions of the UUSC is to always work with local partners and agencies on the ground wherever they are, rather than giving direct aid. It has held a commitment to teaching people to be self sufficient rather than becoming dependent. I like this about the UUSC. It feels right to me.
This also holds true for local and interpersonal needs as well. Lately we have been seeing an increasing number of people on Sunday mornings coming to OBUUC in search of help, and asking for cash. This is not uncommon in urban areas. And it tends to come in waves. It tugs on our compassion and empathy. And we want to respond. Sometimes, though, giving cash to folks who are asking is not helpful because it all too often ends up being used for things that are not what is being asked for and are harmful. A number of folks have expressed concern to me and to the Sunday Assistants that they are uncomfortable with being asked for cash handouts at church. I urge you when asked for a cash handout please reconsider, if there is a clear financial need direct them to come to me – I do have resources for such needs – or offer to buy them food or the bus pass they need. Let’s make sure our help is helpful and not harmful.