Friday, October 8, 2010

More of Jean Baptiste,... and more development

I hope that you read and recall the principles set forth in the previous post. I also hope that you read about my very special little friend, Jean Baptiste, who was introduced in a blogpost entitled Sometimes One Life at a Time (click on it) dated August 21, 2010. Let me tie them together:

I have written: Never give anything away “for free,” except your love, time, attention, and encouragement. “Give-aways” are poison to the dynamics of a healthy relationship in community development. They indulge and reinforce our corrupt “God complex” and our local friends’ perceived “inferiority complex,” both of which are extremely destructive lies.

So what do you do when Jean Baptiste explains that he has a problem, that his school is threatening to turn him away unless he shows up in a proper uniform, the cost of which is approximately $8. We so adore this kid that we feel an overwhelming impulse to immediately solve the problem (not to mention the God complex wanting to kick in): “Here, Jean Baptiste, here’s $10. Go buy yourself a uniform, and some school supplies and candy while you’re there.” What a simple, “feel good” solution for all,… IF it is acceptable to hurt rather than help.

No, this situation required dialogue and brainstorming with Jean Baptiste about solutions, some of which seemed like good ideas, but are in fact unavailable in the world in which Jean Baptiste actually lives. Ultimately, we agreed that this fifth-grader needs to get a job. And we happened to have gardening work that needed to be done. He wins; we win; “with help that does not hurt.”

It was neither hot nor humid. Just a very happy, hard working 5th grader

Jean Baptiste has a new uniform, and is in school. We have a well-manicured garden.

Note the smile on Jean Baptiste and remember that this was always about much more than a school uniform. It was really about personal dignity. Recognizing personal dignity is fundamental in loving another, and may love always win.