At the beginning of October, I walked into Costco with my family. In what has become a yearly ritual, I gasped at the sight of tall fake fir trees, red and white striped hooks and decorative wreaths. The hoopla of the Christmas Season was upon us. The first week of October!
Of course my two-year old daughter delighted in all the color and flashing lights. And as you can imagine, this led to many urgent shrieks of “MINE!” And countless rebuffing by her scrooge of a father.
Having a toddler, the deciphering between “wants” and “needs” is a constant exercise, requiring much discipline. Inevitably a daddy’s “no” to something a child WANTS garners a cringe-worthy banshee cry. Conversely, allowing or offering something that is NEEDED doesn’t usually get anyone super jazzed.
As Food for the Hungry (FH) walks with vulnerable communities in really hard places, a similar type of discipline to decipher WANTS from NEEDS is critical for a sustainable future. It is easy to identify a problem, and then come up with a solution to address that problem in the short term. If someone needs clean drinking water, then give him a bottle of water. If a town needs better education, build them a school. If a child is malnourished, give her some vegetables!
But meeting short-term needs, apart from those in extremely desperate circumstances, is not what we are called to do. Just like a weed, in order to END systems of abject poverty we must dig it up from the roots. Understand the causes that perpetuate vulnerability. And then identify what are the NEEDS of a community in order for them to create sustainable systems that they can maintain and strengthen over time in an effort to thrive.
It is a NEED for all people to have reliable and nearby sources of water. Thus we need to build wells and access points to water, but also teach communities how to ensure water is clean through the use of boiling or filtration units.
It is a NEED for communities to develop solid and accessible education systems. Therefore we must train teachers, stress parent involvement, and ensure that schools have the necessary supplies and the buildings are safe. Education is at the heart of developing communities, through the next generation, for a better tomorrow.
It is a NEED for children to not just have food, but nutritious food. This means teaching families the value of nutrition and home gardening so that their children can grow up healthy and strong.
Food for the Hungry seeks to be a disciplined decipherer or WANTS vs. NEEDS. That is why the most vulnerable communities ask us to walk along side them. We have a reputation for understanding the root causes of physical and spiritual poverty in the hardest places. And we work with the poor to identify the resources, skills and opportunities that are within their lives to meet their most pressing NEEDS. This is our recipe for sustainability.
As I was so shockingly reminded at Costco, the holiday season is upon us. When we are confronted with WANTS vs. NEEDS, let’s be diligent in being able to tell the difference.
Want to learn more about what it takes to make a long-term and sustainable difference in ending poverty?
Download our FREE eBook, The Remarkable Truth About Ending Extreme Poverty. It will help you:
- Understand the root causes of poverty
- Discover solutions that don’t create dependency
- Identify ways you can make a difference in a world where 1.6 billion people survive on less than $1.25 per day!