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Helping People to Flourish

May 16th, 2017

Breaking poverty’s grip, ending economic oppression. Those are two noble goals. They may also be too big for me. I’ve thought a lot lately about WHY. Why is UCOM here? Why am I at UCOM? What are our goals?

By May Day I had broken the “why” of UCOM down to the two lofty goals above, but I couldn’t get my teeth into either of them. Neither seemed doable in my lifetime. Breaking poverty’s grip and ending economic oppression were jobs many people have worked on for a lifetime. Centuries have come and gone, and still there remains poverty and economic oppression.

A smaller goal

Pondering this, I wondered if a smaller goal would still be worthy of a lifetime of effort. Could I be content if I spent the remainder of my productive years helping people to flourish?  When I cast the net too widely the effort seems gargantuan. I feel like I am trying to save all the starfish that get stranded on the beach at low tide, but if I can get one and then two and then ten back into the water, it will make a world of difference to those rescued starfish.

I expend more energy than I have when I try to help everyone. I am overwhelmed when I see the world teeming with injustice. What can I do in the face of so many obstacles? What is it that all of struggling humanity needs? How can one person begin to meet all those needs?

A deeper relationship

When my goal is to help people flourish, I am inviting a deeper relationship with individuals. “We cannot do everything, but we can do something.” Helping people to flourish is a goal that invites delving deeper—deeper than what can be seen in the presenting need, deeper than programs can go—all the way into where people feel. That is a place where we all share common human responses. There is the commonality, not in doing for the masses, but in relating to one individual at a time. I can do that.

A shared goal

In thinking that through, I came to another conclusion. UCOM and I have a lot in common. UCOM does not compare in numbers with our big sisters like The Salvation Army Family Services or Goodwill or Hope Network. So what we can’t do in width, we try to do in depth. Our staff and volunteers make an effort to know people by name, to listen to the stories they tell, to see behind the curtain. Now what can we do to be present to this one person? After we have addressed the presenting need, can we delve deeper, until we are all the way to the essence of our neighbor?

UCOM is 32 years old this year. We have been doing the same kind of work day after day. Poverty is not eliminated, people are still oppressed, but some people got the deep connection that they needed—that human and divine connection—to help them to flourish. Maybe that’s good enough for today.

Comments

#1 Janice Boone said:

I especially like your concluding paragraph Bruce. I have worked at UCOM going on 10 years now and one of the things I appreciate about UCOM is that we accept people where they are at in their personal journey through life. My quiet time this morning spoke to that - never turning anyone away. I personally have found myself in situations that I had no control over and needed help. So people that we help are no different - sometimes they need our help just to get a "break" in life! And that often times needs a "Human & Divine" connection! So maybe part of our ongoing mission is "just for today". Helping someone get through just one day! And giving them courage to get through another and another and yet another day! I thank God that we are here to meet "some" of the people's needs! I do know one thing for sure - there are "needs" in the community that UCOM meets some of them that are vital to families future independence! I think that IS good enough!

#2 Laurie TenHave-Chapman said:

Jesus assured us that we would always have people in need. That reality has commissioned generations of Christians into action. Any act of mercy is worthwhile, whether it addresses the greater, systemic need or alleviates the immediate concerns of a person. UCOM has offered Christ-like aid and kindness for 32 years, offering hope when there has been little to draw from. This is good ministry and I'm glad to be affiliated with UCOM!

#3 Linda Looney said:

Heavens, your post had me near tears then angry all in a few seconds it took me to read it! I believe that we can each do something to help others. If we each share something, there should be enough. I understand that it seems an endless battle and we don't always see the end results. But it is also such a blessing to me when I am able to help bless someone in need with what they need. Maybe that's enough for each day.

#4 James David Ullivan said:

Bruce Roller, I wish more was being done on the justice side of things, I know a lot is being done only it faces an uphill battle with the oppressors. Even so, just think if UCOM did not exist. Sift through your annual reports and remind yourself of how many people UCOM has helped eek thru the month on food, gotten clothing for their kids for school, consider how one of those donated suits helped someone land a job, or the education in budgeting that helped a family turns things around maybe even save a marriage, or the many many other ways UCOM has helped people in times of need and empowered so many.

Sharing your thoughts in your post however does also serve a good purpose. I am glad you shared them, because I hope it encourages those who are working in the justice realm to continue their work too.

I am reminded of the words of Michael W Smith, "Everybody's got a seed to sow."

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