Jerry Laue made a very important observation at a meeting of a handful of people at First United Methodist Church last week.
“You have to enable people to help themselves,” he said.
Jerry is in the people helping business as an executive of the St. Vincent Clay Hospital in Brazil. I’m sure more Brazil residents have been helped within those walls than people who have not been admitted to that hospital.
During the discussion the old saying attributed to ancient Jewish literature came to mind: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
That seemed to be the idea that the small group invited by Pastor Rick Koch had in common. There is an alarming number of people in Brazil who don’t know how to fish. Fishing is not the real issue, but you know what I mean. Too many people are being fed, housed and clothed through the generosity of others because they cannot or will not fend for themselves.
Meanwhile, every industry in Clay County says the same thing — they cannot find and retain enough good workers.
Rick Koch said that it is an urban myth that most people on welfare do not want to work. I hope he is right. I hope the problem is not lack of motivation.
Meanwhile, companies like Britt Aero are fighting the good fight by offering on the job training, hiring people at whatever level of competence and teaching them to do more specialized jobs that pay more money. There is a lot to be said for that approach.
But what about the great number of people who rely on welfare and social programs to sustain themselves and their families?
First Baptist Church is involved in what I believe is a good, two-pronged approached. Partnering with the YMCA Youth Food Delivery Program, they are providing meals for children who would go hungry on weekends and especially over Christmas break. I believe that. I honestly believe that many children would go hungry and lose weight over Christmas if not for the good people supporting that program.
The church is also supportive of CRADLES, the program that works with entire families so moms and dads can get an education and better jobs and better lives for their families.
James Walters, a guest minister at First Baptist Church, said Sunday, by supporting those programs and more, the church is offering Christian hospitality as Jesus did.
But obviously those two programs are not getting the entire job done.
As Rick said at the meeting I attended, we need to know the right direction and the next step to take to help people get out of poverty.
A program First United Methodist Church has begun will surely help children move in the right direction.
The church is offering after school cooking classes to Meridian Elementary School students to teach them to love the kitchen and give them the first lessons in preparing nutritious, tasty meals.
The children and their families develop relationships with the church members and they learn a little math as they learn to read recipes and measure ingredients.
Fifty-seven children wanted to participate so the first session brought in 25 students. A second session is planned for the rest of the children and the pastor said he hopes to expand the program to East Side Elementary School as well.
The cooking classes are not an end in themselves. Parents are getting involved and through this fun activity the church hopes to “bring value to the community,” Rick said.
One question is, “Are we alert to the needs of the community, our community?”
We know people seek out hospitals and churches to relieve pain in their lives. So, what can we do to be proactive in helping people help themselves?