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Sherry Young: An experience in awareness of how to give in a way that empowers, not diminishes

SHARE Sherry Young: An experience in awareness of how to give in a way that empowers, not diminishes

In this world of giving and taking, discovering ways to motivate people to be responsible for their lives is the age-old role of parents and caregivers. Understanding the roles of giving and taking can be difficult.

I recently attended a brunch sponsored by Rising Star Outreach. The woman who first had the vision for this program, Becky Douglas, was disturbed by her trips to India, where she saw people with leprosy begging on the streets. She found out many in that culture felt their condition was given to them as a curse from God for things they had done. Therefore, to help them was to interfere with God’s work. There seemed no way for these people and their children to create better lives for themselves.

As I listened to this dedicated woman talk about how she and two friends got this now far-reaching program started, I was amazed. One part of her conversation that morning was especially eye-opening. It is worth passing on as something to ponder and try in our own lives as we interact daily with others.

Once Rising Star’s medical program was up and running with doctors and nurses treating wounds, it frustrated Douglas that they didn’t seem to be healing. When patients came in for their wounds to be treated, they were taught how to take care of the wounds on their own, but they would come back to the clinic having done nothing to help themselves.

In frustration, Douglas asked Padma, the group's partner in India, why the patients wouldn’t do what the doctors asked them. Padma shook her head and said, "You Americans! You come to India and you just give things away. I know this probably makes you feel good, but the truth is that nothing given free has any value. Every time you just give something to a person, you diminish that person. If you really want to help these people, make them accept the responsibility for their own care.” She added, “They also need to pay into their care.”

The group decided to have the leprosy patients pay two rupees for treatment (the equivalent of 3 cents), and, to the staff’s amazement, the patients began to take care of their own wounds. When they had to invest something into their healing, the patients took responsibility. Finally, those wounds started healing.

Rising Star collected the few rupees it received and put that money into its microlending fund. The fund grew into a way for these people to borrow to start businesses through which they could make a living and not need to beg on the streets.

When I called Douglas to be sure I got her story right, I was rewarded with yet another story that illustrates this same idea.

The Douglas family adopted a beautiful young daughter from Lithuania, Jolanta, who is paralyzed from the chest down. Everyone in their church and their neighborhood was very gracious. They quickly jumped in to help Jolanta, to serve her in every way imaginable.

For years, many shared their love through this service. The young men in her church youth program even built a litter they could use to carry her on trek (a church youth conference simulating a few days in the life of a pioneer). They lifted her on their shoulders, carrying her the entire way. All these things were wonderful expressions of inclusion and love.

Unfortunately, Jolanta became more and more withdrawn.

Feeling desperate, Douglas and her husband, John, encouraged Jolanta to visit Norcross Ministry and volunteer to help others who were less fortunate than herself, such as the homeless and other physically challenged people.

What an amazing transformation occurred! For the first time in her life, Douglas said, Jolanta was no longer the “needy one.” She became the one reaching out to help others, and she blossomed. It was such a joy to see how she was transformed by being the one to lift.

Acknowledging that all of us have divine gifts and talents to share is vital. While it’s wonderful to give service, how much more wonderful it is to help others to the point where they also can reach out to lift and bless.

True lifting occurs when we help people help themselves. We will be wise if we can think about how to help in a way that leaves others empowered, not dependent or indebted.