Saving the Potential

There is a song called “Do Something” written and sung by Matthew West.  It is a contemporary Christian song about how we should stop complaining about the state of the world and do something about it.  I was reminded of it last Saturday when our local Baptist Association’s Women on Mission organization hosted a WorldCrafts bazaar.  WorldCrafts (http://www.worldcrafts.org) is a division of Women’s Missionary Union, part of the Southern Baptist Convention.  Say what you will about large religious organizations, WorldCrafts is a great idea.

The whole point of WorldCrafts is the realization of that old saying “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish, feed him for life.”  Poverty, famine, war, and various other unpleasant situations are rampant around the world, including here in the United States.  But there is something else also rampant – potential.  The potential for creativity, for making something out of nothing is found in the same places.

It’s easy to throw money at a problem and assume somebody will take care of the unpleasantness, leaving us to kick our feet up in our favorite recliner and settle down to our favorite sitcoms and ball games, feeling righteous at having done our duty.  But what happens when the economy tanks and we can’t donate anymore?  Those who were receiving all that food (if the money or food wasn’t being stolen or mishandled) are suddenly left hanging in the wind.

It also doesn’t cover the problem of shelter, clothing, health, education, and transportation.  It is only maintaining an unpleasant situation, like feeding refugees in a tent city.  But suppose the impoverished and destitute could start a business, creating a product they could sell worldwide and make enough money to buy their own food, buy transportation, buy a house, buy clothing, and employ others, who could do the same?  Suddenly, you have an economy, a growing economy that raises a community and allows growth.  You have potential at work.

WorldCrafts is a remarkable organization that takes potential and develops it, raising the living standard of not only individuals, not only families, but eventually whole communities.  It takes those who were without hope and help and makes them self sufficient.  Many of the participants are women, simply because there are so many of them who are helpless and hopeless, single mothers who have lost their husbands to war or disease, as well as many who are rescued from the sex trade.  They have no education, no transportation, no way to grow their own food, and frequently not even a home.  There are many youth who have no future, many crippled and maimed by war and disease, and men who cannot find employment in the areas where they are.

The organizers of WorldCrafts try to find products these people can make and sell.  They bring together people willing to donate their castoff material that can be changed into a beautiful and useful product by those in need.  Instead of keeping the poor on their knees begging for charity, they put them into a merchant’s booth, selling a product they can feel pride in, making a profit that they can reinvest in their business, in their families, in their communities.  Potential has been realized.

So many times we see the poverty stricken on the media and can only feel vaguely relieved that we are not there.  We don’t see the art hiding in the dirty rags of the street people, the magnificent inventions that may come out of an uneducated child’s head if only they could learn science and technology.  Who knows what cures for diseases are hiding in the brains of people with eyes dull from hunger?

You should check out the website for WorldCrafts.  See the beautiful products, read their stories of the situations they have been rescued from.  Read what they are doing with their profits.  Think about the potential finally being realized.

WorldCrafts is not the only organization doing this.  Heifer International (http://heifer.org) is another “investment” organization that doesn’t just give once.  They provide animals of all kinds for families that can be bred and a certain number of the offspring passed along to other needy families.  Training and help is provided.  Seeds, trees, water wells, and other things needed for self sustaining communities is provided.

Other organizations all over the world do it.  They invest not in a faceless stock market, gambling that the companies and funds and stocks and bonds produce a profit for them, but in people and their growth potential.  Seed money, indeed.

If you’ve ever wished you could do something besides watch and hope somebody will do something to end a problem, check out these organizations.  You may be amazed how easy it will be to help fertilize a situation and create a tree of life, developing potential that will change the world someday.

They don’t need thousands of dollars to start.  They are already in such poor situations that what we consider a small amount of money can change their lives.  The potential found in an acorn produces a mighty oak.  What we spend on a cup of coffee could save a village.  When I was at the bazaar, I was able to buy one product, but I also offered several ideas for products that somebody might be able to produce and sell and raise their families out of poverty, send their children to school, and maybe change the world someday, somehow.

I’ve been so poor I was grateful for a bowl of beans a day.  I know how being dependent on charity grinds the soul.  I have felt the pride of earning my own money, felt the warmth of being able to help my family with that money.  I have learned self confidence, creating solutions that solved major problems.  It has been my greatest pleasure in life to help others help themselves.

Many wealthy people have learned the pain of poverty in the past few years as their world turned upside down and the skills and talents they had were no longer wanted or needed.  Situations change.  We are not guaranteed anything but salvation.  We could wind up on the streets, digging through trash cans for food, at the mercy of whoever wants to abuse us.  Would we rather stand in a bread line hoping the food lasted until we reached it or in the checkout line, using money we have made for ourselves?  What potential is being lost right now as the poor search for food and shelter in cities around the world, in our own streets, in the countrysides of countries, dodging war and famine, in brothels and sweat shops trapped with no way out?

There but for the grace of God go we…

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