Freedom

Does a program prepare clients for independence, or does it keep them dependent?

Further Reading:

“Healing Lives, One Person at a Time”
by Barbara von der Heydt
“Human Capital and Poverty”
by Dr. Gary S. Becker
“Learning Charity from an Exemplar”
by Dr. Amy Sherman
“Models of Effective Compassion: Dr. John M. Perkins and 'The Three R's of the Community Development'”
by Michael B. Barkey
“The Living Wage: A Moral and Economic Evaluation”
by Rev. Jerry Zandstra
pdf3.gif “Armies of Compassion?”
by Rev. Jerry Zandstra

Charity workers a century ago did not press for governmental programs but instead showed poor people how to move up while resisting enslavement to governmental masters. Job freedom was the opportunity to drive a wagon without paying bribes, to cut hair without having to go to barbers' college, and to get a foot on the lowest rung of the ladder, even if the wages there were low. Freedom was the opportunity for a family to escape dire poverty by having a father work long hours and a mother sew garments at home. Life was hard, but static, multigenerational poverty of the kind we now have was rare; those who persevered could star in a motion picture of upward mobility.

Today, in our desire to make the bottom rung of the ladder higher, we have cut off the lowest rungs and left many on the ground. Those who are pounding the pavements looking for work, and those who have fallen between the cracks, are hindered by what is supposed to help them. Mother Teresa's plan to open a homeless shelter in New York was stopped by a building code that required an elevator; nuns in her order said that their code forbade such mechanical helps and that they would carry upstairs anyone who could not walk, but the city stuck to its guns and the shelter never opened. In Texas and New Mexico, a Bible-based antidrug program run by Victory Fellowship has a 60 percent success rate in beating addiction, yet the Texas Drug and Alcohol Commission instructed the program to stop calling itself one of "drug rehabilitation" because it did not conform to the usual standards. Unfortunately, such examples of the lack of freedom are all too commonplace.