Don’t go over to the dark side…

February 18, 2021

It is all to easy in life to quickly move over to the dark side…the negative side. In today’s quote in the Jack’s Winning Words blog, Pastor Freed warns against that and instead advises that you take a positive approach – “Be a light, not a judge.  Be a model, not a critic.  Be a part of the solution, not the problem.”  (Stephen Covey)

I struggle with this problem all the time. My wife is constantly having to admonish me for being the critic or a judge of things or rushing to condemn instead of rushing to help. I’ve gotten a little better at it after her work for 55 years of marriage, but I still catch myself going over to the dark side too often and too quickly. I am lucky to have someone in my life who refuses to let that happen and keeps shining the light on me. Be a part of the solution.

Perhaps this penchant for taking the dark side is due to the ease with which one can sit back and do nothing or criticize, instead of stepping up to help solve the problem. It is easier to be the prejudiced by-stander than do the things to make our society more accepting of differences in people. It takes less effort to retreat into the comfort of indifference to the plight of those less fortunate than us or to ignore the plight that the subjects of systemic racism face, than to stand up and do something about it. Be a part of the solution.

Yet indifference is not a very satisfying feeling, it is a feeling of emptiness and the tolerance of injustice is at best a queasy feeling driven by constant guilt. It’s not that we don’t know what is right; it’s just that it seems so much harder to do than to just do nothing – to go over to the dark side. Be a part of the solution.

So, what is one to do? How can one act on the advice that Covey’s quote gave? You can start by being the light and the model that Covey called out. Be an example of how one should live and act in society. Be civil to others and kind. Be honest and forthright. Be the one who thrusts out his/her hand to welcome a person who is different from yourself and not the person who shrinks away. Be open to new ideas and new ways of looking at things. Be the person who brightens the room (the light) and not the one who introduces the gloom of cynicism or prejudices. Be the one that others would like to emulate and not the one that they try to avoid. Be a part of the solution.

The next part of Covey’s advice is even more important – be a part of the solution and not the problem. Problems are not solved by criticism or by heaping on more darkness. They are solved by people who roll up their sleeves and dive into the work needed to solve them. Indifferently standing by while others suffer makes you a part of the problem and not the solution. In every community across this land there are tons of opportunity all around you tp volunteer to do work on the solutions to the issues that confront society. There are food banks and counseling services and homeless shelters and other mostly volunteer organizations at work on the solutions and all of them need help. Find one or two and volunteer. Be a part of the solution.

 What part does or faith play in all of this. It may be easy to sit back and allow yourself to believe that you will be saved by your faith alone; but we have been admonished in the Bible – “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”  (James 2:14-17) Be a part of the solution.

Do you fool yourself by seeing the poor beggar on the cold street corner and saying to him as you pass by, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled” or do you stop and do something? Instead of being satisfied by convincing yourself that you cannot stop and help every beggar, ask yourself what you can do to make sure that there are no beggars. Do something. Be a part of the solution.

Don’t go over to the dark side. Have a great day in the light. Be the model. Be a part of the solution.


Is it more than just business to you?

May 6, 2017

“If you are helping someone and expecting something in return, you are doing business not kindness.”  (Unknown) – as seen recently on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

I’ve posted here several times before about helping others as a way to do something meaningful with your life. I never once mentioned expecting something in return, unless one counts the great feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction that comes with a helperselfless effort to help others in need. There are, however, those who do what appears to be volunteer work to help others but who have ulterior motives. Many of these people are in it to be seen, to be considered to be kind and helpful by others; presumably others whom they think it is important to impress.

You may have been involved with a volunteer effort with people like that. They end up the day of hard work looking pretty much the same as when they arrived. Many of them spend the entire time chatting with others or helping “supervise” the work. They always seem to end up in the front of the groups if there are pictures to be taken for PR purposes. To them the effort is just business; it’s a way for them to earn some “credits” for their volunteerism.

One thing that always impressed me about ex-President Jimmy Carter was that, when he volunteered at Habitat for Humanity build sites; he actually worked. He got dirty anddigging sweaty like everyone else on the site. Most important people show up for things like a ground breaking ceremony with suit and tie on and stand there with their silver shovel for the photo op and then are never seen again. Do you know people like that?

The opportunity to help someone, or to help in some effort that will benefit someone in need, is Gods way of letting us do His work with our hands. In fact, that is the theme of a upcoming weekend of volunteerism for the ELCA Lutheran Church – God’s Work, Our Hands. It is somewhat sad to think that for some this annual event is their one time of the year to get involved with volunteer work and get their ticket punched for the year. There are certainly opportunities to do work that is needed every day of the year.

I will admit that I’m not much for the hooky shirts with the theme God’s Work Our Hands emblazoned across the front or back. I think they are tacky and advertising your good works like that is really just an invitation for compliments – you are trying to get something back for the work that you are doing. You never saw Mother Therese running sewrving souparound Calcutta with a T-shirt like that on, nor will you ever see them on the thousands of volunteers who toil year around behind the scenes as food servers at shelters or councilors at safe houses.

Those people and the many, many more who work as volunteers for all of the right reasons don’t do so because they expect a reward, either here or in heaven. They do so because it is the right thing to do, the thing that God has called upon them to do; and, at the end of the day their own sense of satisfaction is reward enough. They are doing kindness and not business.

Have a great and fulfilling weekend.


Give to fill the needs, but volunteer to fight the causes…

November 21, 2016

“Charity sees the need, not the cause.”  (German Proverb) – as seen recently on the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Jack went on to add, “Compassion for the poor, whatever the reason for poorness, is a value worth teaching.”

Americans are, for the most part, compassionate and giving people who are quick to give when they see a need. Americans also tend to let the temporary good feeling that they get about that giving be enough and then move on with life. In our healthcare world, it seems that we are told (and believe) that there is a pill that we can take to make things all better, no matter what the problem. In our day-to-day lives the “pill” that we take to make thedonation-can needs that we encounter better is throwing that dollar in the red kettle or handing it to the homeless man on the street. We take our giving pill and get on with life.

Certainly, there is nothing wrong with showing our compassion through our spontaneous giving; however, that same homeless man will be back at the same spot tomorrow, again begging for help, unless we do something different and focus some of our energy on the causes for his condition. Is it an addiction to drugs or alcohol? Is it a lack of education or job training? Does he have an homeless-beggaruntreated mental health issue? Is he/she unable to work because they have no way to get to work? Is she begging for food and clothing for her family because she can’t afford child care and can’t work?

In addition to the knee-jerk reaction of compassionate giving, we need to be asking questions. What are the causes? What can we do about those causes? If we do nothing about the causes, how can we expect things to change?

If you dig into the causes, you might be surprised to find that there are many grass-roots organizations already in existence to provide things like educational and tutoring services, job skills training, transportation services, addiction counseling and help, mental health counselling and help and much more. You will probably also find that all of those organizations are run on a shoestring and could use your help, both financially and your volunteer time. In my area there are several groups that do more than just giving someone a buck or two. Community Sharing in Highland, MI, runs a food bank both for people and for their pets; but, that’s just a part of what they do. They also run counseling programs designed to help break the cycle of poverty and to help people get back on their feet and back into the mainstream of society. The Salvation Army is in most communities and runs job training programs to help people re-skill themselves and get into the job force. There are also many local transportation options being offered to help get people to work or to doctors’ appointments.

If you look for these groups and services you will find them and you will find that they volunteersalways need help – volunteers or paid positions to actually do the work of the programs that they run. You can sign up and probably work as much and as hard as you wish helping them fight the causes of poverty, homelessness and hopelessness in your community. Will you solve the world’s problems by doing that? No, but you will make a difference that you can see in the lives that you touch. You might be there to share in his joy when he collects his first paycheck from his new job. Maybe you’ll be able to help him carry in some furniture for his new home. Those are feelings will be a whole lot more meaningful for him and for you than the temporary feeling of good that you get as you drop your dollar in his hat and hurry on down the street.

In most communities there are hundreds of volunteer opportunities for those who wish to give more than just money. One way to find out what the needs for volunteers are in your community is to go to VolunteerMatch.org and check on your community. When I tries it to see what might be available around my area 558 volunteer opportunities came up. Try it for your community and see what needs are right around you that you may be able to help with.

seerving othersSo, the next time you reach for your wallet to throw a buck into a beggar’s hat, stop long enough to consider what he/she really needs to get back on their feet and then find a way to volunteer to help with that cause. There is an old proverb that is really an appropriate analogy – “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Volunteer to become a teacher of men and help make lifetimes better.


If not you, then who?

December 1, 2015

“Am I my brother’s keeper?”  (Cain’s answer to God) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Tis the season to be generous, so perhaps you have put your change into a red kettle at the mall or sent in a donation to one of the many requests that arrive in the mail this time of year. That makes you feel good and feel good about yourself, for a while. What about the rest of the year? Do you helperask yourself the same question as Cain did? Are you your brother’s keeper? Is it up to you to give, to volunteer, to make a difference?

We live in a time of declining government help and funding to provide for the needs of the disadvantaged. It’s a time when our elected officials seem more interested in arguing with each other than providing help for those in need. Cutbacks in public spending for everything from mental health care to providing basic services has shifted the burden of caring for those in need to the private sector – to churches and volunteer assistance groups. I wrote about one such group in this area called S.A.L . – Supportive Assisted Living – that provides needed services to allow developmentally challenged adults to live in homes of their own. You can read what I wrote about the group here.

S.A.L. is just one of the many groups at work in our community providing the services and help that are needed and filling the voids left by our uncaring and ineffective governments. They truly take on the role of their brother’s keepers. S.A.L. can use your help as a volunteer or paid staff and certainly as a donor. Other groups, like Community Sharing, the Red Crossseerving others and local churches provide clothing, food, shelter and services to those in
need. We see snippets on the news and then they quickly fade away. What happens to those people when they get back home with their bags of groceries or that new coat? Do we really think that everything will be OK now? We did our part; we delivered the Thanksgiving bag of groceries; now we can get back to our lives. That’s not how life works.

Groups like S.A.L. are there every day, day in and day out; providing the daily care and guidance and support that their clients need. It is that role that has been abandoned by government – the role of my brother’s keeper. S.A.L. does receive some funding through various government programs, but that funding is constantly being cut. Now, you may say; “Well that’s not government’s role”; to which I would rely, “If not the government, then who?” After all, our “government” is supposedly helping handsrepresenting we the people. So it is us who are abandoning those in need when the government abandons them. If your argument is that, “government can’t afford to provide those services”; then how do expect charities to afford to do so when you abandon that responsibility? After all, charities are funded by whom – we the people.

This all leads me to the question that serves as today’s title – if not me, then who? Who is going to provide the funding and the services, if I don’t? Who is going to step up and volunteer, if I don’t? Who is going to vote for better politicians who will care about the real issue in our society, if I diverse handsdon’t? Who will run for those offices and do that better job, if I don’t? You see, it always comes down to the individual. Who else will be inspired to take action if I don’t? Can you answer that question in your life? Do you even ask? Who will if you don’t?

Be your brother’s keeper today – give, call, volunteer, make a difference. If not you, then who? If you want to support the efforts of S.A.L., click here.