I creaked open my car door to slip Renea into her car seat.
I cringe. I’m not a mister. And yet I am—to these Indonesian kids who clearly know just enough English to make their request known to the white lady.
But I didn’t cringe because they called me “mister.” I cringed because these are boys wearing school uniforms—not beggars—who are asking the white lady for a handout.
They were walking home from school, not standing on the street corner with hands out. They probably have parents, or other relatives. But they saw an opportunity and took it.
I cringed because they can’t want to be that. Beggars, that is.
And I cringed because I know they have other struggles—maybe even some financial ones. Maybe family ones. Maybe ones that make them feel unloved. But they’re struggles I can’t solve by giving them a handout.
I cringed because I wanted more for them. More than handouts. More than begging. More than what I can give them out of my lint-littered purse.
Seven years ago, I moved to Indonesia, wanting, really wanting to make a difference. And the needs seemed big—big enough for there to be room for me to be able to get in there and do something.
I still feel this way. And now I know people—know them past the requests and the hands out and the surface problems. I know their stories, their histories, their heartbreaks, their realities.
But I’ve learned—the hard way sometimes—that it’s not a simple, romantic notion of: Needy Person. Money or food given. Problem solved.
Sometimes the women continue to have babies with men who aren’t their husbands, who don’t care. Their poverty worsening. Sometimes dangerous dependence is created—the westerner becomes a "hero" who actually cripples. Sometimes the cash isn’t used for a doctor, but for a witch doctor.
Sometimes it’s not a handout that’s needed—but a heart-out. A heart willing to befriend. Willing to listen. Willing to challenge. Willing to do more than assuage guilt. Willing to get a bit messy with people with deep problems but with amazing God-given gifts. Willing to encourage a community to use its own gifts to make a difference. Then get out of the picture so they can help themselves.
A heart willing to admit that sometimes we’re the ones with the problems. We’re the ones who need to change.
Sometimes I'm the one wbo is lacking, who is poor.
Join me on Monday as I share with you more about what I’m learning—and how I’m learning it. And join me in the discussion, if you wish.
photo credit, Nina Matthews photography