Symptoms and Diseases

I have been reading this great book called Begging for Change by Robert Egger.  He is the founder of the DC Central Kitchen.  The book is a strong critique of the nonprofit world and its tendency to work in isolation from others in the service world instead of cooperation, its tendency to get caught up in its own survival rather than in the service it is supposed to provide, and its tendency to address symptoms to the neglect of the problem.  He is also deeply concerned with the lack of imagination and boldness amongst nonprofits.  Here’s one of the money quotes:

As students of charity, whether we’re young or old, we need to understand that the best thing we can do to help a child in need is not to give that child another meal or tutor, but to pay that child’s parents a living wage. We need to stop thinking we have to drive to the “other side of town” to help “inner-city kids,” or go out at night serving meals on the street. That’s addressing the symptom, not the disease of poverty. We need to look at the people right next to us to see how they need our help.

He is not pushing that we should neglect the hungry and ignore the poor.  We can’t pretend that we don’t live in a world that produces persons and groups that get mangled under its wheels of sociality and production.  Rather, he is pushing us to see that we must also be willing to address the root problems of a society that presses us to look out for ourselves at the expense of our neighbors.  That we must be willing to question a society that would have us act in accordance with an ideology or an economic system even when it moves us to disenfranchise or destroy others.  In other words, we must be attentive to our neighbors as well as the systems in which we exist with them if we are to fulfill our mission.

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