One of the greatest problems inherent in government entitlement programs is their tendency to see people as victims who are both incapable of responsibility and unable to provide for themselves or others. As a consequence, the hand-out approach so quickly adopted leads to programs that actually further some of the root causes of the situation, encouraging behaviors that keep individuals in material and spiritual poverty.
Whether we’re talking about the third world or people in our own neighborhoods, the more effective way to bring meaningful, long-term change is to find ways to help people help themselves; to transition from victim to victor, and from dependence to independence. That means—among other things—they must engage in work, which should be seen as a tool for service and opportunity, not some system of oppression. Work is one of the ways we discover the value we can bring to others through our unique, God-given talents. Sometimes we need a reminder that everyone has something to give, not just take, and that we all win when we embrace it.
To this point, an inspiring story comes from Chris Horst, director of development at Hope International, about his “special needs” brother Matthew. It is a story about the kind of good that can come when we see people as more than mouths to feed, and business as more than a profit center. Read Chris’ open letter to the CEO and President of Costco at his blog, Smorgasblurb.