Respect for people in need

By August 22, 2007 culture, faith No Comments

As much as my heart breaks for people in Africa who lack clean water, I have been reluctant to sit down and “get a plan” for greater involvement. The small things I do I hope are a true help in a tangible sort of way. But often my success and performance mentality rears its ugly head and I feel like I should be organizing a benefit or rallying my acquaintances to send a huge check.

So I keep praying, and when I am moved to tears for people who lack the basics, I keep praying and commune with God, for His heart is broken too.

After reading this article by Uzodinma Iweala from, I am ashamed of the savior- and superiority-complex that I see in and around me that assumes everyone should be Westernized, as if that is the ultimate way to live. It would be wonderful if all people everywhere had the necessities. But would it be good for the world to follow in our footsteps, living a life of consumption and waste and indulgence? Probably not.

The most painful comment from the article is this:

Africans, real people though we may be, are used as props in the West’s fantasy of itself. And not only do such depictions tend to ignore the West’s prominent role in creating many of the unfortunate situations on the continent, they also ignore the incredible work Africans have done and continue to do to fix those problems.

Do we see Africans as real people? People who are working and living and loving each day, much as we do? What a shame that we would use this relief effort as a way to promote ourselves, or feel better about ourselves, or build our sense of superiority that people need us. What sort of fantasy do we have about our power and ability to extend help? It makes me cringe.

I have several friends who are yet single, who are now in their mid-30s to early 40s. People who are well-meaning are constantly trying to “fix” them in their singleness, as if their lives are on hold until God provides a husband. I wonder if this same mentality applies to the West’s motivation to help Africans? Are we trying to fix people, thereby showing ourselves as capable and generous and not needy?

May God break our pride so that we could be humble servants to all men.

There is also an NPR interview on this same topic.

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