Faith. Hope. Charity. All are key Christian traits.
But what is charity? Is it a meal when someone's hungry, clothing when theirs is thread-bare? Money thrown at the problem?
If that was all, then we wouldn't need to worry--welfare throws money at the problem all the damn time. However, it's done nothing but make things worse.
What is charity, then, if not a handout?
Say you're walking along, and you find a deep, deep hole, with somebody at the bottom, yelling for help. How do you help them? Do you make them comfortable in their hole? Toss down food, water, blankets? Maybe a pillow or two? No. You pull them out. You get a rope or get a ladder and toss it down to them, help them climb.
Throwing money at the problem is proving to do nothing but make them content enough to not climb out. No, not totally content, but content enough that it seems better to stay put than to struggle.
So, how do we do that? How can we, as a group, help people?
The hard truth of the matter is that you can't help some of them. They don't want help, they want to lay in their hole. They just want a minimum of comfort while they do.
As for the rest...it's even harder. You have to get to know them. Without knowing who they are, you can't know what they need. You can't know what they're struggling with that put them in the hole to start with. You can't help someone who wants help if they're addicts by just pulling them out of the hole--they'll just fall back the second you let go. And you don't know if that's what put them in the hole if you don't know them.
Some people that want out of poverty need help with addiction, yes. Some need help with other things: learning to budget, learning to do some things for themselves to free up some of what income they have, learning to feed themselves--dear God, do you know how expensive it is when you can't cook???
A lot of us have forgotten that we have to know people to be able to help them.
Before I was born--hell, before my mother was born--that used to be the responsibility of the church communities. They'd pitch in and help: they took care of widows, orphans, helped those injured in their work (because almost all the jobs were heavy, dirty, dangerous work)...they knew their people, and knew who needed the hand up, and who needed support through a rough spot with a few months of handouts. They knew who wanted out, they knew how they fell in the hole to start with...
...and they knew who were just lazy bastards that weren't worth trying to help, because they wanted the minimum for comfort in their holes, not help out. They'd help their kids, but not them.
We need to do that again. We need to build community. We need to be open, we need to pull people in. We need to get to know each other.
Because without that, all we can do is offer handouts and hope for the best.
That way, though, leads to apples and sandwiches abandoned on street corners. I'm sure you all know what I'm talking about.
And I'm tired of trying to help and getting my hand slapped for offering because I'm offering help instead of money.