Actively bringing about much needed change in our communities and hope to the broken and disheartened.
If you know me at all, you know that the bio to the right over here isn’t really accurate right now. You’d also know I’m completely incapable of figuring out how to change it (cough, hint hint TYLER knows how to though, hint cough)…but currently I find myself working in the social work field with kids that have behavioral and emotional disabilities such as Bipolar disorder, Agressive Defiant Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Asbergers etc…I really enjoy my job and I really enjoy social work in general. I’d say the thing I’m most interested in is Family Systems – specifically how the actions and attitudes of each member of the family effects other members of the family. I find it very interesting to see how people are connected, even if they don’t realize they are…which brings me to this post topic: Why do we do the things we do – specifically when we do them for other people?
My roommates and I had this conversation last night and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. The three of us are all in similar stages of life – none of us are super involved in any church right now, but we still believe the basic foundations of what we did when we were. You know, God, Jesus, salvation – that stuff. But we began to talk about being young and having energy to do stuff to make an impact on the world and what kind of things were out there that we could do, and how the church has disappointed us in that it hasn’t enabled us to go do big things but rather prepared us to function in a “Sunday morning” capacity.
As we explored some things we could do, be it serve food to the homeless or build water wells in India, the question came up of why? Why do we do these things? I mean, none of us are sitting here really on the church bandwagon saying “We wanna win the world for Jesus and therefore we will go out and do all of this stuff because it’s what Jesus would do!” But we still feel somehow like we want to – so, what’s the motivation? It’s interesting because we all had different answers.
I talked about social work and family systems to start this off because one of the things I’ve learned through my research on the topic is that children are egocentric. Essentially, children don’t have a great capacity to see that the world does not revolve around them. Everything they see and experience they literally only relate to how it effects them right now. They don’t have a great sense of how big the world is around them and how things effect them and how they effect others in return. At some point in adolesence though, children begin to see how their actions effect others. They begin to see a broader picture of the world and supposedly things are not so much “just about me” anymore but things become about family, community, teams, etc.
As adults we look at this phenomenon and say, “Ah yes, children are so egocentric. Adults are much more broad in our understanding of the world.” So we have this notion that we want to change it. You know, leave a mark on the world. If you’ve seen the movie Troy it’s a great example – Achilles is so obsessed with the idea of his name being legendary that he is even willing to die to make it so. Whatever he did worked, because I know who he is and its like ten thousand years later so ya…just sayin. But we get this idea that the actions we take, if broad enough, can leave some kind of legacy behind us after we die. Whether we are Adolf Hitler or Mother Teresa – their actions will stand the test of time.
But even with this broader sense of the world around us – I think we still tend to be egocentric far into adulthood. I think most people, despite what they say, really live like the world revolves around them (me included on this one). I don’t often consider how my actions effect others, merely how others actions effect me. I don’t consider what I can do to make the world a better place, but how the world can curve around my desires and make my life better. Which is why I think that this notion of “serving” is such an interesting phenomenon, especially for someone like myself who may not have the excuse of doing things “for God” at the moment.
So some might say they want to serve because God wants them to. That works for some people. But why does God want them to? Because Jesus served? OK – but why did Jesus serve? So people would follow him? Because he loved people? Ok he loved people – but I would say that 80% of people who serve “because God wants them to” wouldn’t HONESTLY look at the homeless man strung out on drugs and FEEL love. Real love. Maybe pity, sadness, disappointment, disgust, or some form of emotion – but love? Unconditional? Enough to invite that guy over to YOUR house to eat with you? Nah – cuz he’s got the soup kitchen so why would I invite him to my home? I mean…the soup kitchen is way more like a home then my house is, so like, he’s good. No – I feel like I would be hard pressed to find love as the primary reason for the majority (though I’m sure a minority exists).
So is it because we gain something from it? My roommate Josh said that it’s a mutual benefit for both the giver and the receiver. That the giver gets to feel good about themselves – some form of self-righteousness I would say – and that the receiver gets a need met. Good for both sides, right? I’d say this is probably the reality for the majority. It’s a feel-good to serve others – to look beyond myself for a moment to help someone out beside me. Because I’ve spent all of my time thinking about myself up to this point, which is why serving is such a big deal, because it forces me to think about someone else. As Christians, service is supposed to be a lifestyle – not a phenomenon. But we trick ourselves into thinking that being self-centered is ok as long as you sprinkle in the occasional donation to World Vision.
It’s funny because my arguement about why people serve the world was initially that some people view the world as a broken place that has the possibility of getting better if people would just work together. It’s a beautiful notion to think that we could all come together, put our weapons down, help each other, lay aside greed and personal gain for the good of the whole. Some people are able to walk around with this ideal – and because of it they see society as a group of people who ALL impact each other. That the things I do impact my neighbor and vice versa and on and on to the point that EVERYBODY has a neighbor. See how this relates back to my family systems interest? The actions of one in a family system impact the entire family. I think that the actions of each of us, no matter how big or small, impact the circle of influence we have built in around us (family, friends, coworkers, church, etc…). If we choose to spend our time and energy on behalf of others – it not only impacts those we serve, but influences those we sojourn with to do likewise.
Isn’t that what Jesus did? He took 12 dudes (really it was way more then that…i specifically remember Jesus sending out 70 dudes at one point) – and he just influenced them. Sure he said all kinds of deep things too – but he lived it by example. When I work with children, my most effective method for teaching them proper social and coping skills is to lead by example. It’s a subliminal message that gets communicated to them and they begin to take on the socially acceptable practices as if they were coming up with these ideas all on their own – which is how people change. If we want to see change happen in the world – ya gotta do much more than believe. When you see injustice happening – don’t just trust that someone who is “trained to take care of it” will step in and help. You should help. I should help. Can you stop looking at the pictures tagged of you on facebook for a minute and get your friends to raise money to feed kids who don’t have food?
“I dunno. The world is an awfully big place out there. What can one person do all on their own?” – said no one ever who actually did something with their life.