When Helping is NOT Helping Anymore

HELPING – This aspect of my life, I should say, was completely shaped by my late father. He, at most times, was known for his excessive generosity and devotion to help whoever was in need. For many years, I considered my self liberal, rebellious and different because I used to disagree, speak against and question his ways. There were many things I wondered about, asked why they had to be addressed that way and how could those be good when those acts made our lives even worse. 

Over the years, I have set my self apart, discreetly and slowly, until circumstances and maturity took their roles in explaining and answering my long-time hard feelings:

1.When someone borrowed money, we should ALWAYS let them borrow. 
My parents were not rich but they had a considerably stable and good income. Good in the sense that they can provide our family a comfortable life without compromising the needs and occasional getaways. However stable, those earnings were fixed. We did not engage in businesses or investments where their money could grow. Considering the set salaries, we shouldn’t exceed the budget to be able to live a debt-free life. That however, was not the case. Over the years, I had witnessed strangers, neighbors and distant folks coming over our house to borrow money. Reasons would vary: sometimes serious, sometimes vices. Some were heartfelt, some I perceived, were taking the advantage. Some paid back, most did not.

If God encourages this kind of sharing, why didn’t He create a rainfall of bread, butter and money?
Can we help others when we ourselves are also helpless?
What is the cause of helping when we know that we are also at loss?
What is the intention of costing our lives when on a deeper note, we are actually limiting the person to maximize his potential?
When one has the ability to save and help himself, why are we supposed to override it?

Giving and helping are always victorious but doing these with pale foundation is a failure. When my father died, we received a huge sum yet got only a quarter left from the payment of accumulated debts caused by such practice. Bonus is, the ones he helped remained poor and struggling. Tell me, did we succeed? Was “helping” really helped us and the ones in need?

What Should Be Done: Let them borrow, why not? When you have the will and capacity to do so, go on! But when you are sorry, there is no better way than to decline politely. It is a fact that some of them have a mental calculation of your income and will bluntly question you on the face why you cannot lend them such amount. Keep your calm and don’t reason out, we are never obliged to. Share casual ideas about how to save, what (unnecessary) expenses may be given up and others ways to earn. You save your self and with the right approach, you might save them as well.

2. We should help the poor by giving them food, shelter, transportation and cash.
Our house had been a charitable institution, hospital/pharmacy and orphanage. Random people would knock at our door with some medical prescriptions and bills or even quotations for funeral and burial expenses. My dear father would pay all of them even if we barely made both ends meet. One time, I brought lunch to the hospital where a distant relative was confined – it was the typical meal: rice, fish and banana. My relative was not so pleased and asked for an apple. At that moment, I was provoked. For long, I was reflecting about these circumstances.

In the context of now, if Jesus intended to feed the poor, what will then be the use of fishing?
When He wanted to easily provide the ones in need, why would He teach us to work hard, or to excel or to save, or to act?
Why can’t we just sit and wait for God’s home meal delivery?
When God is capable of giving us millions of cash through any lottery, why would He create humans with the willpower to strive and aim for greater things?

What Should Be Done: It is better to give than to receive. Give more and be blessed. But you don’t have to supply something you barely have. Helping can’t be limited to material things. Encourage someone, spend time when one feels lonely, listen when one needs a friend, offer an extra bed when someone needs a place to stay, drop a friend off when you can and he’d be grateful for a saved fare. Help through letting them help themselves.

3.We should serve the poor and be poor like St. Francis (To give and not to count the cost. To labor and ask not for reward)
My dad grew up in a small village. He made his way up until he had his own living. When he saw people with the same condition, he would really extend a hand remembering about what he had been through. He would say we should have pain to gain and that we should be poor to enter the kingdom of God (like it’s hard for a camel to enter a needle). I grew up getting affirmed that I should not marvel much because I have the responsibility to help the poor. I would agree in some parts but I pondered about the most of it. Being St. Francis is a golden calling which I am not willing to become. Behind him were deadly conditions and profound devotion which I do not possess. God, in all angles, always wants us to succeed. At the beginning, He made everything for us, He created us with abundance of nature. All these times, He wants us good, healthy, positive, full and rich. God the Father even gave up His only Son, Jesus Christ so that we will live free! That cost is priceless! Why do we have to act poor and be poor to gain heaven? Christ did it on the Cross. It is already finished!

What Should Be Done: We can do many things with what God has given us. We can work and use our talents to grow and improve. We can desire anything WITHIN God’s will – a nice house for our family, an investment, a good education for our children, a secure and healthy environment, a travel or holiday – anything under God’s ways and time. We can be wealthy and wise in various aspects and still be grounded and hungry for God.

I am sharing these not to traduce my father. He was a man of integrity and I loved him more than anyone. I am making these out in the open because I see some of these things continuously happening, if not with me, to some people I know of. This is also a call for those who may have felt attacked by this post – instead of feeling condemned, be driven to change a mindset and transform lives. A simple act of prudence, a single way to say no to an unnecessary newly-launched cell phone or redundant pair of shoes can wave a way towards bigger goals and lasting assets. The life we live now is just a product of many choices we did yesterday. When mistakes strike, we have unlimited second chances to reset and start again.

When my father died, the funeral was bursting with people, from his colleagues to the ones in villages who he helped with when he was still alive. 

Am I assured that he is in heaven? Nope. One can’t be judged according to what he did, it’s only for what Jesus did! Only he and God knows. 
Am I seeing bunch of poor people (whom he helped) improve? Nope, because real helping can happen without the presence of it.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” -Anonymous

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