by Dr. Stephanie Ellis
Several days ago, I was listening to the radio and heard an interview with the First Lady of Afghanistan, Rula Ghani, speaking (in part) about the United States’ relationship with her country. The part of her message that really struck a chord with me was this: She asked the US to continue supporting Afghanistan, but to do so without pity, understanding that the Afghan people (including Afghan women) are a strong, motivated people.
I don’t think many of us know how to do that. And I don’t mean in a foreign policy sort of way. I think that American culture has such a strong focus on independence that we often don’t understand the concept that someone might need or want support, but still not need to be viewed as dependent or made to be dependent.
Consider all the “give support” commercials you can think of. Do starving children and sick puppies and Sarah McLachlan come to mind? Trust me, they do those kinds of commercials because they are the most effective ones at opening pocketbooks.
Can you imagine a commercial that said “The Help-Us-Help-Others organization is functioning well? We have a strong group of volunteers, and the people we serve are strong. Our financial situation is not dire, but adequate. God will meet our basic needs; we don’t have any concern about that. And if we have to change the way function or provide services based on what we have now, that’s also legitimately fine. We will not fall apart if you don’t support us. But it would be nice, and you would be helping, and we and the others who rely on us would benefit. Please donate!”
When you first read that, does it sound a little crazy?! Read it again. And read it again, if you need to. Read it until you realize that almost always true, and it’s still worth helping.
SO, how can we do this better?
How can students support each other better? How can faculty support students, faculty support each other, church members support each other in a way that honors the strength and dignity of the other person, and doesn’t enable them in becoming dependent, while still providing what they need?