Wednesday, July 8, 2009

what makes it worthwhile?

Last night some of my friends help put together a fantastic BBQ dinner at a local homeless shelter. It was a lot of work but, I think the guys at the shelter really appreciated it and were thankful.

Afterwards, one of my friends felt the let down that you get after you do something good for people who may or may not ever escape the trap of drugs, alcohol, and poverty. She wondered if there had been any real interactions and if just "hanging out" in that setting does any good at all. In some ways, I wish that mere acts of kindness would help people out of poverty but, unfortunately it doesn't work that way. That does not make the acts of kindness any less significant.

Even so, I think that the question, "What is the good of this?" is worth asking. I mean, seriously. If our intention was to help these guys, we probably didn't do much more than give them a really delicious meal. But, maybe that is enough. We don't have to fix their situation. Maybe our willingness to be present is good enough.

Isn't that [almost] all we want anyway? As I listened to my friend's discouragement --I realized that I felt the same way a week or so ago after we had a big party at our house. We had a good time, we shared good food, and had good people over but, afterwards, I felt a similar let down. I wondered what the good of that type of interaction is, I felt like all my conversations had been short and superficial, so, ok --yeah, we had a good time, but what is the value of that?

Maybe it is the same. We want people to be present in our lives. Sharing food and time is valuable. We can always work towards more meaningful interactions with people and towards more intentional conversations. What is it that makes an activity worthwhile? Is it something we can measure?


Becky said...


I appreciate this post a lot. I think there is great value in letting people know they're worthwhile. They're worth the time it takes to prepare a BBQ. They're worth the effort of throwing a party. The outcome may not be measurable. It may not change the course of their lives. But everyone needs to know they have worth. Dinners and parties and celebrations give us a chance to express that. And it doesn't have to have any "value" beyond that. That is the value.

Hannah said...

Thank you for your comment Aunt Becky, I think you're right.

live the questions now... R.M. Rilke