Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Stepping into the Gap

So, a couple posts ago (check it out, if you haven't read it), I wrote about being a conservative. And I said that if I really think the government has no business stepping in to take care of people to the extent that it is doing, then I (and other conservatives) should be prepared to step into the gap myself-- to make the effort to alleviate some of those needs so government intervention isn't necessary.

I'll admit, I haven't done that as much as I should. I've been able to soothe my conscience about the matter by pointing to our charitable giving. Keith and I are faithful tithers. (For those of you who don't know, that means we give ten percent of our income to our church. That's not to brag. We were both taught to do that from an early age and it doesn't even really feel like a sacrifice. We are thrifty folk [read: cheap], and we save a lot -- we've pretty much always lived on significantly less than ninety percent of our income, even when our income was significantly less.)

We give beyond our tithing as well. Keith has commented before, while doing our taxes, that we are apparently in the top . . uh . . well, the top some-very-small-percentage of charitable givers in the country, according to tax records. I always thought that wasn't a commendation for us as much as a condemnation of the rest of the country, because we were there long before Keith was making the kind of money he is now -- and I know how much more we could be giving.

In any case, giving money isn't enough for me anymore. As I said, our charitable giving doesn't even feel like a sacrifice. Frankly, I don't think I personally know anyone who gives to the needy to the point of great personal sacrifice. I wish I did know such a person -- such love might motivate me to that kind of love, too.

I find that what most stands in the way of my "stepping into the gap" is being aware of where the need is. I mean, yeah -- I know there are poor people around. Sick people. Mistreated. Lacking opportunities. But I don't know many of them personally.

The truth is, I live a rather sheltered life. My homes have been in neighborhoods where there was little material need; same with my schools (when we've utilized them) and my churches. This was one reason I appreciated my homeschool co-op in New Jersey. We had a good cross-section of people from many walks of life (although they were all Christian). It occurred to me the first year we were in that group that this was the first time my eldest had known kids who didn't get everything they asked for for Christmas. Kinda pathetic.

So, what I'm wondering is, how do I break out of this bubble? What do I do to meet people who have the kinds of needs I could help with? And I don't necessarily mean meet, like, "Hi! This is Sally, the single mom we're bringing a Thanksgiving meal to through our holiday service project. Enjoy your dinner -- have a good life!" Our church here in Sioux City does a lot of service projects for the community, and that's one of the things I like about it. But number one, those projects sometimes seem like the equivalent of giving a candy bar to a starving child -- it's kind and certainly cheers them, but it doesn't really meet their deepest needs. And number two, those projects are often intentionally set up to be easy, one-time experiences -- no real sacrifice or commitment involved. The "servant" goes away feeling good that they did a good deed -- and the "served" continues their previous life relatively unchanged.

Not what I have in mind.

So, as I said, I want to explore these questions with you all. I'd kind of like to see this blog used as a forum for sharing ideas about how to "step into the gap". Who do you know that does this effectively? Sacrificially? Where do you make the connections needed to make a difference? Tell your stories, and I'll post them here (I'll leave out names, if you want). Let's share the information, motivation and inspiration. I'd love to see more than just myself feeling convicted about this and making a change.

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