Wednesday, April 23, 2008

difficult ministry

A woman approached me after our worship service last Sunday. During the service we had given away our offering as we do once a month to a local charity, and we had invited a representative from that charity to come and speak to the congregation. The woman who came up to me shared that she had felt angry and conflicted throughout the service. Although she supported the work of the charity she had once needed to make use of the service of the charity and had been refused. The same woman that had come to speak to the congregation had personally told this woman in my congregation that she was ineligible to receive their help.

My congregation member understood that charities have eligibility requirements. But she also told me a story of coming to a very humbling position in her life of needing to present herself to another person asking for basic help. Not only was she turned down but she felt she wasn't treated kindly, adding to her shame. And, of course, now she feels put in the troubling emotional position of feeling anger at a woman and a service who she knows does much good and that she would like to support and feel good about.

She came to me asking how she might move to healing from this burden that she's carried for several years. I had no good answer to tell her immediately and told her I would think about it. She thanked me for listening. And I'm still thinking about what I might recommend she do.


Lizard Eater said...

I can relate, in a less direct, but no less conflicted way. I want to support the American Cancer Society. They do good work.

Except ... they devote a pitifully low amount of their resources to children's cancer. (While still using lots of pictures of cancer kids for fundraising.)

My solution: a) I let ACS know my opinion. b) I do send some money and energy resources to ACS (such as the Relay for Life). c) I found an organization -- Cure Search -- that has childhood cancer as its only focus. It gets the lion's share of my help.

I think action, in some way, is the key to healing from burdens such as this.

Eve said...

I found myslef in a like situation. In doing press for non-profits for free I was asked to write press releases, a column and volunteer my time for a Christian based food pantry in our area. I had difficulty with the morning prayer to Jesus, but could see the work they were trying to do. Getting past my discomfort, I worked the table checking id's, etc. No one was turned away. Not sure this relates but thought, maybe, it would help. At the very least, I wore my yellow shirt every time I worked there. And felt everyone I met treated each other with dignity and respect. The group is Hunger Defense Fund.

SC Universalist said...

I believe I would say that yes, it is always difficult to feel charitable toward people who refuse us charity when we desperately need it.
and yes anger toward someone we feel has shamed us is common.
but (as she knows and is telling you) the anger is worse on us than them. How do we not take the personal personal?
what would she like to happen? what does she feel should happen?
How could the charity be more charitable?
-- i suspect that 30-60 minutes of talking about her anger and her shame will help her to come to the outcome she already wants: to no longer be angry.
if not it will be still be the first step on the journey she wants to take

Anonymous said...

Ricky: Once when I was serving as Executive Director of Interfaith AIDS Ministry, I had the surviving spouse of a client ask me how she could continue to receive services from us. She gave us the complement that throughout the time we provided support to her husband, that we did exactly what we said we would do and the services we provided actually made it easier for families and not harder. Our policy was we would continue to provide the same level of ancillary support for one year to surviving families after the person with HIV/AIDS died as a means to aid in the grieving process and to help transition the families to other agencies if needed. The problem for this woman was she did not, like the woman in your congregation, meet the eligibility qualifications of these other agencies.

This woman was feeling desperate and said, she would have herself infected with HIV in order to continue receiving supports. How desperate people are in our society that it is better for them to be living with a terminal illness than to be healthy and in poverty in this country!? I felt so sad for her and sad for our country that we have reduced ourselves to this... charity only for those we deem worthy of it...Sigh...