It is true, tragically so, that people can serve others in need and undergo no transformation. Likewise it is true, tragically so, that the persons being served can undergo no transformation either. The exchange of “services” is reduced to a transaction and the assistance rendered has been reduced to a commodity.
All such activity can be passed and quantified and look good while at the same time serving only to dehumanize all parties involved.
People in need are by no means passive and inanimate material things. Vulnerability is no small matter. It makes one feel insecure, unsafe, awkward, and on the verge of being inept. People in need are especially vulnerable because they have no resources, no patrons to speak of, no clout.
On the other hand, those with resources are also vulnerable since few, if any, such persons know how to be guests of people in need, feel guilty at receiving from them, and often are fearful of hospitality because it means sharing in good that go beyond material resources. The vulnerability comes in part because the provider, who is capable of being a patron, wonders what he or she has in common with people in need.
If left at that point, transformation is precluded and giving becomes an exchange of commodities. In effect, no dialogue, no transformation.
Let’s start small. Suppose one couple provides transportation for the child of a needy family to attend a congregation’s preschool on a scholarship. Think of the conversations – like surrogate grandparents. Then let’s suppose the single parent wants to say, “thank you” by inviting the couple in for coffee. Now the drivers are guests, if they say, “yes.” The single parent, the host, is in the position of “power” by being the “provider.” Then and there dialog is waiting to happen and both parties are vulnerable to transformation.
The key is meeting, seeking a way to meet and be met, seeking to be “evangelized” by the other who one might have thought had nothing to offer.
Read the story of Christ’s encounter with the Samaritan woman (John 4), asking her for a cup of water. Read the dialog that follows. The transformation of the woman stems from the capacity of the Sent One from God to be a guest – not a ruse, but a guest. Jesus was thirsty. He was not patronizing but He became her patron.
All real living is meeting – even for Jesus.
–Thoughts taken from “Meditations on the Core Values” by Dr. John Weborg