Saturday, June 6, 2009

People Who Need People

One of the greatest securities we can have is knowing that there will be others there for us when we need it. Conversely, we fear that we won't have the help we need when we need it. Building a world that works for everyone means building a world where we all take care of each other.

I'm not talking yet about connection and compassion and community. I'm talking about the simple, basic security of knowing someone is there. 'People who need people' are only lucky people if someone is there for them. For this to work, we need to be able to be there for others. The more of us that are out there trying to help others, the more chance that there will be someone there to help.

But helping people has its drawbacks. I'm all for soup kitchens and homeless shelters and other ways to help people in need, but there still seems to be a hierarchy at work with institutions like these. 'Us' helping 'them'. I liked the homeless veteran's idea of tent cities where the homeless could grow their own vegetables. I like the Food Project's work on helping to create inner city gardens. We all need help sometimes but we don't want to create unnecessary dependencies. Sometimes people are in a place where they can only be dependent, but usually there is something they can do as well and they will feel better (and more secure) if they think they are doing their share. We could be helping each other; there is a balancing act here.

It's also a balancing act in making sure that 'helpers' don't neglect their own needs. While there are many ways in which helping others can be a part of our own learning and growth, burning out and co-dependent enabling can also be pitfalls for those helping. It's another good reason for creating egalitarian helping relationships. Taking care of each other can be a complex, multi-layered process.

Of course, any helping is better when compassion, connection, and community are involved, but I will get to those things soon.

Catholic Worker Movement and Food Not Bombs--Two groups that few people would lump together, but both are anarchist movements that combine a radical analysis of what's wrong with this society with a dedication to service, especially feeding the hungry
Ram Dass and Paul Gorman, How Can I Help?--A book of "Stories and Reflections on Service", full of challenging and sometimes helpful guidance; a very condensed, 'digested' version is available online and though I think it may be out of print, the book is available from used book stores as well as Ram Dass Tapes
The Food Project--Works to makes sure that everyone gets food (locally grown food) and can grow it if they want and at the same time supports young people in taking leadership around creating sustainable food systems
Two blogs of note by people who truly give service are Michaelann Land from an advocate and activist for the homeless who once was homeless herself and Robyn Coffman who lives and works with troubled young folks and gives enormously of herself. Each of them is an inspiration.

Quote of the Day: "...helping to relieve the suffering of our fellow beings (including our planet) is not only of benefit to others but is deeply satisfying, good for us, and fun." - Ram Dass


ethicalsusan said...

Thanks for the good post. I like a lot of your points. One pet peeve of mine is using words which are conditional as nouns - in your piece you used "the homeless" rather than describing people who are homeless - although you "got it right" in the first part of the sentence - "the homeless veteran."

Since language is so important when describing concepts, and you have so many good concepts in your piece, I thought I'd point that out.

By the way, that concept was really brought home for me at a Passover seder I was part of when I was living in an intentional
community. One of the participants pointed out how it would be more proper to talk about "people who are enslaved" rather than "slaves."

Thanks for all the good thought, care and work you put into this blog.

MoonRaven said...

Thank you for your comment, and you're right--these are people who are homeless. It's an easy trap to fall into because that type of terminology is used so often, but I will try to pay better attention in the future.

I appreciate the feedback.