Saturday, February 21, 2009

Caution vs. Christian

This afternoon I went thru a drive thru for lunch - not healthy, I know - and after getting my sack of greasy food and pulling down the drive, a man waved to get my attention. He was disheveled, had only a few teeth and he asked if I had some change to spare so he could go inside the restaurant and get a burger. I replied that I only had a few cents and he walked off while I drove away, back to the office to eat and finish my day. No sooner had I stopped at the first red light when I started thinking about why I reacted the way I did. I didn't roll down my window to talk to that man, and I didn't give him the change that I had (I honestly didn't have any cash since I had spent the last of it at the drive thru, but I probably had 75 cents or so in my change purse). Why not? I always want to talk about integrity and "walking the walk" of being a Christian, but how short I fall so many times!

In dissecting my reaction to him, I understood that my initial response was fear. I have been taught to fear people who like this man looked - whether from my parents, friends, television or a combination. Even when going out on "mission trips" we are taught that some people are okay to help and others are dangerous. Where does this distinction come from? Who gets to decide who is okay to help and who isn't? How do we overcome our fear? What exactly is it that we're afraid of? The most obvious situation that comes to my mind is that one of "those people" may be dangerous and hurt us in some way, perhaps even killing us. Or perhaps we'll give them money to get food and instead they'll use it to buy drugs or alcohol or something else we find unsemly. Hmmm. More judgement.

The trite phrase "What would Jesus do?" often gets brought up at moments like these (and indeed, popped into my own head while I had this conversation with myself) but I honestly don't know if the Bible is really a place to look for this kind of answer. Yes, we know that Jesus helped a lot of people in various ways, but does it say that Jesus helped EVERY person he came across? Did Jesus share spare change with the first beggar on the street and have none for the others he met? Or did Jesus not have any spare change always counting on charity where he stayed - in which case, what did he do fo the beggars? Did Jesus have some way of choosing which people he helped and which ones he didn't? In some stories we are told he sees the spirit possessing the person he helps, or the person's faith is what causes action. Am I supposed to know if the man asking me for change has faith? What are my criteria and how many people can I honestly help if they meet them? I can give everything I own away and still not have enough to help just the people here in Kansas City who need it, and then I'd be a person in need myself. Is my responsibility to take care of them while still taking care of myself OR JUST TO TAKE CARE OF THEM regardless of what it means for me? A lot of questions, I know. Welcome to how my brain works. :)

In the end, I'm not proud of what I did today and I want to work on checking my fear as soon as it happens. I think I have decent instincts that will help me decide when it's appropriate to be afraid and take caution and when I need to push my comfort zone and really help that person - especially if they take enough risk to ask me directly. In the end it's about balancing my care for myself with caring for others. We all have to find the balance that works for us, but I want to challenge myself - and you - to really look at the balance you've been living out and whether you really think it's enough. Perhaps you can give more and stretch that comfort zone a little more often. Perhaps you give of yourself so much that you're not really able to get by on your own anymore. Maybe you're entirely okay with where you are - but have you thought about it and really made that decision consciously?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

In the Media

One of the things I love about my job is that I always have a variety of things to do. When I crave interpersonal contact, I have things I do to reach out with a variety of people. When I just want to be left alone, I can put on my iPod and work on the website. When I want to have a little fun, I can log into Facebook and MySpace and update our pages while I'm also updating my personal status. Most people aren't so lucky, and I know it. For whatever reason, lately it has seemed that I've been spending about 50% of my time working on our website (so if you haven't checked it out lately, please do and let me know what you think - I'm always looking for feedback, even if it's just about a small spelling error). I've gotten things updated enough that I'm not so much making the information current to this year, but I'm actually out looking for new ways to update things, like linking to recent news pieces on our events, blog postings about us, etc. This means I'm learning more about how media works, some of which is interesting and some of which is super frustrating.

When I used to work at Midwest City 911, I would often get phone calls from the local media who had been listening to their scanners and called looking for information about something they heard. "Hi, this is channel XX news - what was the address on that fire you just went to?" We didn't have to do anything to attract their attention - they were usually contacting us before we had anything to give them. Now that I work for Habitat KC, it's a whole new ball game. We put out press releases on almost all the events that we have - from big public events to house blessings at the end of each build project - and it's a rare occurrence when one of the local KC channels will contact us looking for more information, let alone show up at the event. There are a variety of reasons that this might happen - (1) we might give all the information they need in the press release and so they don't need to call; (2) Kansas City is a larger metro region and they don't generally need to find more news stories to fill up the paper or newscast time; (3) Habitat isn't sensational enough to catch people's attention like a house fire or police chase would.
I know all of this, just as I also know that even when you see a news story on tv, you're often not getting the whole story, but the piece that the particular reporter or producer thought was interesting enough. There are all kinds of things about the process that are personal, political, etc. but like it or not, withouth the media, we don't get the information out to enough people, so we do what we can to work with it.

That being said, I just wanted to give a shout out to a few pieces that have been done on us lately in Kansas City and say thank you for giving us the time, space, etc. to get our word out.
  • Channel 41 news posted this piece on their website. I don't know if it was also mentioned in the news cast that night, and most of this article is direct from our press release but it's nice to have the mention.
  • Bill Tammeus, who used to write for the KC Star newspaper, mentioned our latest project in his blog. While not published in print, his blog has lots of local followers and he is well respected which helps us greatly.
  • KMBC Channel 9 news did a whole story on our upcoming Women Build project (including video online). Lara Moritz, one of their main anchors, has agreed to be our spokesperson for the project since it has a focus on breast cancer awareness (her mom died from breast cancer) and we look forward to future pieces with her.

Now all I have to do is figure out how to keep up with all of these things and remain vigilant about linking to them from our website!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Habitat KC Kicks off 30th Year

Today was an amazing day at work - a day where I got to feel like all the office dysfunction is doing some real good in the community. We had our Build Season Kick-off today, an annual event to mark the beginning the new year's activities and introduce the partner families to the rest of the Habitat KC community. For whatever reason, this year we had a great turnout - staff, Board members, volunteers, previous family partners, and all of this year's families were able to be there. We even had folks from the city council, our state representative, and the president from the local neighborhood association there to say a few words. A few of the families spoke about how they got to this point, what the homeowner process has been like for them so far, etc. and it was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. People of all races, ages, faith backgrounds, etc mixed and mingled and got to know each other's stories in a way I haven't seen outside of of a house blessing ceremony. Those are the events we do to give a family the keys to their new home when the house is done being built, but they usually only involve one family and their one house - this was so much more than that! As this is Habitat Kansas City's 30th Anniversary, we wanted this event to be a bit bigger than it's been in the past. We've tried to promote it more thru email, on Facebook, etc. and it probably didn't hurt anything that we got a story on the news the other day. :) It was just nice to have a good turn out, appreciation from various sides of our program, and really feel like we're doing good work, little by little, building up our community one family at a time. If you haven't volunteered with Habitat before, I STRONGLY recommend it. You can do a search for your local affiliate from the Habitat for Humanity Internationl website by just entering your zip code. And don't forget to do your home improvement shopping at ReStore!