Monday, April 30, 2007

is it possible?

Over the weekend we attended a fundraiser for the Bolingbrook Christian Health Center. The center provides medical care for people without insurance, and God is doing amazing things there. My friend, Sue, is the director of the clinic; she’s just an ordinary Mom, really, with this amazing passion for the underserved in our community.

Anyway, if you know me at all, you know that I love to cook. Big crowds, little crowds, even preschoolers—I enjoy feeding people. So I’m in the planning stages of designing a cooking class for the clinic. One of the things Sue sees over and over are busy families existing on non-nutritious food because they don’t know any alternative. They shop at Aldi, which is jam-packed full of inexpensive junk food, and fill their carts with chips and crackers and fruit punch.

I went to Aldi on Saturday, and as I shopped, I found myself pitying people who have to shop there all of the time. I missed my well-lit, clean, upscale grocery store. While I scoured the perimeter of the store for nutritious food choices, I wanted to shout, “Hey! Frozen vegetables are over here for only 69 cents!” And I realized how deep-down critical I am of people who feed their kids a steady diet of junk and fill their bottles with Hi-C.

I pray that my pity will be replaced by genuine compassion. And as I prepare these low-cost meals for my own family this week, I pray for empathy and understanding to replace my critical attitude. It’s easy for me to put on my helping-the-poor hat and feel really good about myself for getting involved; it’s much harder for me to identify with the poor and live among them. My challenge as I plan these meals? To feed my own family the same stuff. To lower our food budget and, for a time, live within difficult perimeters. It’s not the same, but I pray God would use this season to enable me to connect with people I don’t normally connect with.


Craver Vii said...

A cooking for health class sounds like a wonderful idea! I sure would love to see a steady stream of these types of options for the folks who receive helps and handouts. Free classes to help with finances, homework, citizenship, marriage, parenting, etc.

A Musing Mom said...

What a great idea for a way to get involved! It will be neat to hear how that works out.

spaghettipie said...

It is hard to relate to those who are not like ourselves. I guess that's why we have to let Jesus love through us rather than try to do it on our own. I think it's a really cool idea, and I love that you are stepping out of your comfort zone to meet the people you are trying to serve where they are. I will definitely be praying for you.

Llama Momma said...

Craver - I agree. More education in many areas would be so helpful!! People get stuck in destructive patterns that keep...well...destroying life.

AMM -- I'm still in early planning stages, but I think it will be fun. And good. I'll keep you posted!

SP -- I'm realizing more and more how sheltered I am. Thank you for your prayers!

Llama Momma said...

Oh, and if anyone has a favorite budget-friendly recipe to share, I'm interested! :-)

Ted Gossard said...

Llama Momma, So good to hear of your heart and hands in wanting to help the poor! Blessings on you for that. And it is good to be awake to our attitudes that can be wrong. It is too bad that so often the poor do load up on food not good for them.

Llama Momma said...

Ted - Honestly, it's hard work to eat well when your income is limited. (Not just on-a-budget limited, but free cheese limited!) The disparity between the food I have access to and the food the poor have access to saddens me. And as it relates to healthcare, the ramifications of this are huge!

spaghettipie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MamaToo said...

Right on, Llama Mama! This is exactly what we need more of - and praise Jesus for giving you the idea & strength to serve such a meaningful way.
I have a few recipes that serve on a budget, are super-nutritious, but yummy too... I'll try to email you or post them soon.

Llama Momma said...

thanks, Mamatoo. I'd love the recipes!

Thank you for the encouraging words, too. Often I feel very insignificant in the face of big problems or issues. Who am I? What can I do? My talent pretty much ends with writing complete sentences and making lasagna. Oh, and don't forget changing poopy diapers! I'm good at that too. ;-)

Anonymous said...

**Identify with the poor and live among them** Now there's a concept! Maybe you should add that to your list of things to pray about. If you really WANT to connect with "them" get rid of your "helping the poor hat" and actually live in the environment. They are just people, you just might be surprised by that fact. Too often Christians put on their "helping the poor hat" and think they have done a GREAT work. Actually being there for people who live in less fortunate areas on a daily basis, living among them, now that is a great work and sacrifice. Christians have become too comfortable and think that writing a check is to be commended. That is not what God calls us to do. That is not sacrifice. Stop patting yourself on the back your "helping the poor hat" just may fall off.

Ted Gossard said...

Llama Momma, I so much agree!

MamaToo said...

Dear Anonymous,
you sound very experienced and passionate about this. I agree, writing a check isn't the biblical solution: we're called to be doers.
While physical location (i.e. not running away from the reality) is part of the solution, it seems Llama Mama should also be commended for "living" in the midst of the need and giving of her gifts. "Living there" may be where we're willing to put ourselves - not just our address.

MamaToo said...

hi LM,
sorry to say too much... I posted as promised. :)

Anonymous said...

LM -- This is such a gigantic topic, and I commend you for taking the first bite.

"Anonymous" has touched on the complexity of helping the poor. We certainly can't write a check and be done with it.

Yet, your idea to restrict your budget and begin to make limitations as a way to empathize seems like a good place to start. Since recent census reports show that there are more poor people in the suburbs than in the urban areas, living "there" is no longer as simple as it once seemed. Finding ways to connect and help with people who are poor is only becoming more complicated.

Praying about this issue and how we each can be involved really is a good idea.

Anonymous said...

LM -- By the way, I've been meaning to tell you that I drive by a llama farm a couple of times a week on the way to the park, and I always think of you!

Llama Momma said...

Anonymous - thank you for your thoughts on this. I agree -- the helping-the-poor hat has to go. That was part of my point, and prayer, in the post.

So, a question: must we live in poor areas in order to serve the poor? In the Bible, God commands us to serve the poor. (And the widow and orphan.) Does He call each of us to live among the poor? Is it possible that some of us are called to work and live among the affluent, to share God's love with them too?

These are tough quesitons, and I don't have answers to it all.

Llama Momma said...

MamaToo - thanks for sharing your thoughts too! I'm always happy to have a variety of people and opinions on my blog. Everyone doesn't have to agree with me. I'm okay with that. :-)

Charity - yes. YES!! I've also been reading "The Suburban Christian," and it's helping me think about these issues differently. Honestly, I do live in a very affluent suberb, in an old, fixer-upper house. It's a great community, and if I never leave it, I start thinking the world is such a happy place. I don't know if I'm making sense or not, but the bottom line for me is: where is God working? Jump in and get involved! Which is what I try to do with my every-once-in-awhile work at the clinic.

Erika Haub said...

llama mama,

Hello friend! I think this is my first time commenting here, though I have been reading for a while. I was thrilled to read of your involvement with this cooking class and I want to encourage you to continue to be creative and sacrificial with your gifts and talents and the things you enjoy. You are teaching you children as well as inviting yourself to be changed (not to mention enjoying your love for cooking)!

I am a "free-cheese" mom, though I benefit from access to basic nutritional info/education (as well as great access to medical care and info online and in books, etc.). My husband and I are experts on shopping the sales to provide our family with healthy food.

I have been shocked, though, to realize how much harder it is to eat well on a tight budget--the crap food is always the cheapest and you know that it is the stuff that will make you kids feel full. I too walk down my streets and am discouraged by what I see children eating and drinking on a regualr basis, though one mom told me that she simply can't afford to keep up with her three son's huge appetites so she ALWAYS serves soda at every meal to help them fill up/feel full. Sad, but I understand her.

spaghettipie said...

What an interesting conversation.

Are we all called to live among the poor? I don't think so. But certainly if we are unwilling to do so, we should check our hearts and our motivations. But as you mentioned, we are supposed to move past pity into genuine compassion. I liked anon's comment about seeing others as just people. Oddly,I think that's sometimes hard to do (as terrible as that sounds!). If we work to find the things we have in common, I think we usually end up finding out it's more than we thought.

At the end of the day, though, we have to let Jesus love others through us because we don't have the strength or ability to do it on our own.

I need some coffee said...

What a wonderful ministry opportunity you have!

Education is one of the things needed but I have found that the biggest problem is depression and just plan exhaustion and guilt.
For example it is hard for a Mom who has just worked a 8 to 10 hour min. wage job, who hasn't seen her kids all day, to say no to junk food when the kids are bagging and her guilt is so great. Most comfort foods are bad for you and cheap.

I would encourage you to not only have recipes but to help motivate them to want to cook. Show them easy meals that are fun and will make them laugh. You might ask them for recipes and show them little ways to make it healthier.

By the way I shop at Aldi. They have a brand called Fit and Active that is very good.

Erika Haub
please tell your friend that:
I have friends who have son's and I have one and we make them protein shakes. I get Body Fortress Whey Protein vanilla from walmart for only $12.00 a 2lb. container. You can mix it in about anything and it keeps the boys full. One of my son's friend mixes the chocolate flavor in plain water and loves it.
LLM you may want to try this in the future :)

Anonymous said...

Absolutely some are called to live among the affluent, which very well could be the harder place to live. It would be VERY easy to get VERY comfortable. The draw for more comfort and just plain old more is very powerful. I think sometimes in the affluent community the "sharing God's love" gets lost because of the comfort. With that comfort you don't get a real sense of anyone's need. I am not saying that they need Jesus any more or less than anyone else, but with the poor you see it. The need is very clear and in your face. With the affluent the need seems to be more subtle.

So, since you live in an affluent suburb what are you doing there to share Jesus? You said **but the bottom line for me is: where is God working? Jump in and get involved!** Is God working in your community, right where you live? Can you jump in there? Can you start something so others can jump in?

Llama Momma said...

Erika - thank you for leaving a comment! I'm honored that you would stop by my blog. When I was shopping on Saturday, doing research for my class (figuring out what was available for what price), and my critical, self-righteous attitude started popping up, one of your blog posts came immediately to mind:

The quote from "The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City" haunts me, and really, inspired me to at least try to understand. I realize that I can't, really, but I can try.

Llama Momma said...

SP - I agree! To reach out and connect with people, not projects, is the goal. The minute we make someone our "project," the relationship shifts and we lose the organic ministry that happens when one person reaches out a hand to another.

I need some coffee - So true. And if you're already overweight, what's the point of even trying? Just buy the donuts and everyone's happy. It's an uphill battle for many.

Anonymous - thanks for your comments. As I live in community with my neighbors, there are ample opportunities to share Christ. And, while people may or may not be struggling financially, there are needs.

spaghettipie said...

Anon - While I agree with the sentiment I sense coming from your post, it's also difficult to categorically say that "but with the poor you see it (needing Jesus, that is)." parenthesis mine.

That was what I thought before my trip to Africa, and it fueled my desire to share the Gospel with them because it would be so obvious that they would need it. What I found, instead, was a faith that ran deeper and more evident than those people I knew at home with 200% more material wealth. In some cases, I think it is more obvious that the affluent need Jesus for exactly the same reason that you mentioned - they are comfortable and don't realize their need because they have so many distractions to avert their eyes.

So sometimes it is "more obvious" with the poor, and sometimes it is "more obvious" with the affluent. Again, it goes back to what was said before that it boils down to relationships that look past whatever amount of wealth.

Llama Momma said...

SP -

"So sometimes it is "more obvious" with the poor, and sometimes it is "more obvious" with the affluent. Again, it goes back to what was said before that it boils down to relationships that look past whatever amount of wealth."

So true. And in all ministry, whenever I go in thinking I've got something really great to offer, I'm humbled. It's God loving people through us. So simple; so hard.