I grew up in a single-parent household. My biological father was only around until I was about a year old and then he was gone. My mom raised my older brother Josh and me by herself. My mom was and still is (at the age of 60) an incredibly hard worker. When my brother and I were young she often worked two jobs just to make ends meet. She somehow seemed to always find a way to get us what we wanted for our birthdays or Christmas, and it wasn't easy because we were the bratty kids who wouldn't be happy with anything less than name brands. Our tastes were fancy, what can I say? I guess a "Sorry Mom" would be appropriate. We received help from the government for a little while because we needed it, but my mom never took advantage of that. As soon as she could make enough money to pay all the bills again, she stopped accepting the welfare.
(Side note: back in the late 80's and early 90's, food stamps came in the form of paper that looked like actual dollar bills but they were different colors. That was kind of an exciting thing for an eight year old.)
When I was in third grade I was chosen to attend a summer camp. Only one kid from my whole elementary school was chosen to go and that kid was ME. What an honor, right? I had no idea why they had chosen me but I was stoked! And here's the thing... the camp was totally free. AND... before I left for camp someone was going to come pick me up to take me shopping for everything I would need at camp. Clothes, shoes, backpack, sleeping bag, personal hygiene items, flashlight, etc. What!?
I remember being SO excited when the shopping day came. And then the day I went off to camp was even better! I spent a week swimming, playing games, making friends, and feeling loved. I can't remember the name of the camp but I've never forgotten the name of my counselor. Her name was Dana. Dana was great and she made my experience at camp so amazing.
Here's why I'm sharing this story. Many years later I found out that the camp was for "underprivelaged kids". The elementary school gave the camp my name and one of the music teachers at the school sponsored me to go. But my little third-grader self had no idea. And that's a beautiful thing.
I never once thought they felt sorry for me. I never felt under-privelaged. I never felt poor. I never felt like I was just someone's project. What I did feel was loved and cared for, in a safe environment.
For the people in our lives who really are under-privelaged, poor, marginalized, or falling through the cracks of society, may they never feel like we're only helping because we feel sorry for them.
If we love them WELL, they'll NEVER feel like a project.
Is there anyone in your life who might feel like a project? How can you love them better?
Thanks for listening, friends.