Btn_red_77x28 Green website certified by Greenscroll Clip to Evernote

Monday, January 12, 2009

Missionaries in the hood

A really sad story in the Philly area. read it here
This guy - an ex cop, a former Peace Corps volunteer, and all around good guy, white, brings supplies, delli, and produce to a poor neighborhood that does not have a grocery store. He has a rolling store in a school bus and is welcomed by many of the residents in the neighborhood. He has done this for many years. He is called a good Samaritan. I was touched. The widow's words were wonderful. She and the kids distributed all the remaining inventory in the neighborhood and were greeted by the residents and embraced, promising that they would see to justice. The police have no suspects.

The widow said he was out to save the world. She fought with this missionary to stop spending his time with so little monetary return. The deceased said he felt the need to serve. How could this man be killed? Must be ungrateful thugs. Right?

Well intentioned people make a fatal mistake - I'm doing good and people will be grateful. Wrong. Why? Because that view is only from the missionary perspective. This guy was out to help and serve - and make a small profit. No one would begrudge him that. But he lives outside this neighborhood and has the privilege of entering as frequently or infrequently as he likes. He does not live there and his relationship to the community is as a merchant. He saw himself as a savior - not unlike the Peace Corps work he did. But in the PC, you live 24/7 in your community. You don't commute in. You empower the people of your community - you don't provide them with stuff. You share your knowledge and you teach. So for 18 years this guy brought goods in, sold them, and had a nice relationship with his customers. He was not serving them. If he were, he would have worked with the community to open their own shop. Teach them how to build their inventory, how to make a business plan, how to have a cash flow, and how to sell. Then they would have taken on their own business and flourished on their own. Instead, he kept them dependent on him for 18 years in the name of "service." He never saw it coming. He should have. God bless him for his attitude, but let's learn something from his demise.

Success for urban revitalization #2: Work with the community, not for it. Residents should be subjects of interaction, not objects of care.

No comments: