Seeing ‘the invisible’

Good samaritan

It’s begun. Lay-offs, retrenchment- whatever you decide to call it, the reality is that some households have lost their monthly incomes. As a mother with 2 young children, my ability to provide for them is of the utmost importance. Amidst all of the structural adjustments that Barbados is undergoing, the effects on the most vulnerable, including children is what I’ve been thinking about.

So this post is for those of you who are watching the process of workers being made redundant and wondering what, if anything, you can do?

Being a good neighbor is critical during this time. But who is your neighbor? In the bible there is the story of a man who asks Jesus this question, sparking the unfolding of a story that is known throughout the world – that of the Good Samaritan. This story describes how a man was beaten and robbed and left at the side of the road for dead and through the compassion of a complete stranger – a Samaritan, was nursed back to life. We all know how the Priest and the Levite passed him by; two persons who should have helped but were either too busy or couldn’t be bothered to care. Truthfully, we could read this story and resent the ones who could see a bruised, bleeding man and continue on their journey not batting an eyelid. But how often do we act like they do?

We see them – ‘the invisibles’ all around us – persons who lack economic means to help themselves; persons who are unable to access help to change their situations. There is an old man in my community whose house has no electricity and no running water. I know because I can see the pit toilet set up outside in the bushes. This old man in recent times has become ‘visible’ to me and my household and while we don’t have the funds to repair his home, we do have the ability to share our food with him. Invisibles can be immigrants living in our country, widows, the elderly, the disabled or orphans. They exist but how often do they reside in our minds to the extent that they cause us to make an adjustment to our lives?

As this country continues to undergo its adjustments and more families are put on the breadline, you better believe that more needs will appear in our community. DO NOT LET THEM BECOME INVISIBLE!

Barbados has for a long time been a middle income country with a relatively high standard of living. That is changing. I have often heard how the old people back in the day used to look out for their neighbours with a breadfruit or some item to give. I remember as a child the neighbour knocking on the door to drop off something yummy to eat and mummy would return the favour when she cooked. It was just a way of life. We have no choice but to go back to those days, where we become our brother’s keeper.

One thing we have to push against is the preoccupation with our own needs and interests. This is a trap that prevents us from seeing the opportunities to serve those around us. Your income (whatever size) can and should be used to serve others that are in need. In bible times, God gave a law to the people with fields that when they harvested they should not harvest the full land, but rather they should leave some back for the poor to glean. You and I may not have a plot of land under production but our labour and income is our resource and if we were to apply this principle it would mean that we leave some for the benefit of those in need.

Sometimes people in need may need us to give them resources (aka handouts), but what I’d like to encourage and promote is that we give them the dignity of work. When God set the law I just referred to in place, the poor had to go in the field and gather for their needs; in other words they had to work. One way we can help those who have lost their jobs is to offer an opportunity to do some work in exchange for payment. “But I don’t have a business to employ and give them work,” you may say, but you can find opportunities to be creative. For example, when you meet someone who is unemployed, one of the things we can find out is what they are good at and then deliberately see if you or someone you know may need their skills. You may not have had repainting a room in your house as a priority but if you see your brother in need who happens to be a skilled artisan, why not be like the Good Samaritan and offer him this opportunity. Similarly if you know a mother in need who can bake well, why don’t you get some of your friends together and order some sweetbread or cake to put a dollar into her pocket.

During this period, we must look for opportunities to ‘do good’ to our neighbor and watch how God will provide not only for their needs through you but also bless your own household. Do you remember the story of Elijah in the famine and the widow who used her last oil and flour to make him bread? Do you remember how God rewarded her by giving her a never ending supply of oil and flour to take her through hardship because of her service to Elijah who at the time was poorer than she was? I really believe we can experience a supernatural provision when we decide to take the focus off ourselves EVEN though we may also be feeling the pinch, to serve those less fortunate than us.

 

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