My nine-year old neighbor thinks that my human-powered rotary lawnmower is so cool that he loves to cut my grass. My lawn is only the size of a shuffleboard court, so it doesn’t take him long, but for five bucks I get out of some work and he has fun.
When faced with a Society of St. Vincent de Paul task or obstacle, we often only see the problem before us. We wonder how much it will cost to fix the problem, how much of our time it will take, and even why it seems that God is punishing us with this situation. What we so often ignore, though, is that our problem may actually be someone else’s opportunity!
During Scouting’s 100th anniversary, I was asked to develop an arena show at a summer camp for several thousand Scouts and their families. My budget was miniscule, but the expectations, especially of the boys, were not! I had little choice but to wonder who might want to help me, and at a steep discount. Flipping the problem mindset into an opportunity mindset, I asked a “teen school of rock” if they would like to perform at a mini-Woodstock before thousands of eager young fans. They readily agreed, and even asked how much they needed to pay me for their participation!
Talented leaders of Society food pantries encounter this win-win situation all the time. They are in regular contact with grocers who have excess product that they hate to see wasted. Our acceptance of all those breads, produce and almost-expired foods solves their problem, may affect their tax and cost accounting, and even makes them feel great! Our pharmacies likewise take advantage of someone else’s problem — what to do with medicine overstocks — to help families in need.
As we approach a problem, let’s ask who would benefit from our situation. Who wants us to succeed? Who would view our challenge as their opportunity to make a difference, to help their business, or to otherwise advance their goals? Is there a local government agency, and/or a business, who could benefit from our work, and may even help us to see that we are successful? Who would love to volunteer with us to meet their service hour goals, a corporate commitment to service, or some other objective?
We must admit that not everyone works strictly from the goodness of their hearts. There may be enlightened self-interest, too, even if we consider it to be God’s grace. Perhaps God has given us an opportunity to bring others into our orbit, and to learn about our works while satisfying their own needs. There is more than one pathway into understanding the challenges of poverty and its effects on our communities. Likewise, there is more than one journey to Society membership and other support. There is certainly more than one way to learn God’s plan for us through service, collaboration or exposure to others in different life circumstances. The Society can be the stimulator for all this to happen in our neighborhoods.
Others may not see these possibilities, because they don’t yet know us well enough. They may not know who we serve or how we operate our programs. We may need to take the lead for others to see the opportunities to benefit in spirit, finances or other parts of their lives through getting to know us better. Leaders don’t go and do the work; they get the work done though others. Let’s be leaders for Christ and solve some of our challenges through the opportunities of others around us.
As for my young neighbor, I wonder if he has read “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” yet? Just wait until I show him how much fun he will have painting my fence!
Yours in Christ,