Sometimes the problems that we see in communities are so big that we don’t even know where to start working. It can be incredibly overwhelming to see the lack of clean water and realize that the project is so hard, and so huge—where do we even begin? Or maybe it’s nutrition—the kids are malnourished and the feeding program we developed doesn’t work. How do I begin to see transformation in the community relating to the food they feed their kids so that the kids are not malnourished and then stunted? Where to begin? It is often in that overwhelming moment that we freeze. We don’t know what to do so we do nothing. Or we charge ahead thinking we can solve the whole problem ourselves with our own ways.
Yet, as I have been talking to the mothers in the trash dump community, I am learning that often the solution to a huge problem is for a community to come together and everyone just do their part.
Saturday morning I was talking to a young mother, Lindawati, about what she loved the most about her community. As we were talking, she shared that she loves how within the community they take care of each other in their need. Yully, our community partner, cut in and explained what Lindawati meant. Whenever a family in the community has a huge financial need that they cannot cover themselves, a community representative (often Yully herself) goes around house to house for a collection. Each family contributes whatever it is that they have to spare, it didn’t have to be much—but everyone who could, contributed. The need is often huge and overwhelming. No one family can solve the problem. Yet they have discovered that if everyone just contributes what they can, they are a lot closer to the solution than waiting for a silver bullet solution that will magically take away the problem.
As I reflected on this, three lessons occurred to me.
First of all, when was the last time we gave to someone in need? I don’t mean we gave our extra Starbucks money—I mean we risked not being able to feed our families vegetables that week because we gave to someone in our community that had a need? If I am honest with myself, I don’t know when the last time I gave that way was…I wonder if this is how those who heard Jesus praise the widow who gave her two mites felt in Luke 21?
Second, while the community contributions may be monetary, what they are giving is more than money. By sacrificially sharing, they are standing in solidarity with each other. It is supporting each other through the difficulties life throws at them. Wellbeing has to include this kind of dimension—it has to have room to understand that while they may not economically have much—their relationships are rich and strong.
Third, I learned that there is value in just doing something rather than sitting by. Problems around us are huge and they can be overwhelming. But what if instead of waiting for a silver bullet solution, we decided we were going to do something about it, even if it’s just a small step? I’m not talking about haphazardly going into a community to solve a problem without thinking through the consequences. I’m talking about working together as a community to take care of one’s own. Of saying that a small step forward is better than waiting for there to be a giant step. And maybe a series of smaller steps will lead us to an unexpected breakthrough.
Lindawati. Personal Interview. 5 August 2017.