Early in the lockdown I expressed hope that the difficulties we were going through were sparking a new level of altruism. This is part of what I wrote:
The most striking aspect was seeing how many others had the same idea as us. We found that the neighbors helping our efforts had done their own smaller dry goods distribution earlier in the lockdown. Around noon someone from another community drove by in a food cart with hot meals for free, and later a truck pulled up with snacks. We spoke to a man who was interested in making a similar contribution and directed him to a nearby slum which had needy persons who we hadn’t been able to help.
When our distribution was over I walked home down empty streets in the fading light of dusk. As I approached a homeless man leaning against a wall, a car stopped just past him. The driver got out with a package of food to share. Further on I passed a hospital and saw a car with the trunk open and boxes of sweets being handed out to families of patients.
It struck me that virtually everyone I saw was in some way helping someone else. Even back in our our own, slightly more well-off slum, 99% of the neighbors we spoke to seemed more concerned with others who were worse off than themselves than they were with their own situation.
For there was no needy person among them, since any who possessed lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sale, and placed it at the feet of the apostles, who then gave to each according to their need.
It broke my heart that this positive development failed to hold. We continued to distribute, as did a YWAM group in the city, but most other efforts died away. By the 2nd month of lockdown I stopped seeing people helping while we were out. While the “official” lockdown lasted 2.5 months, strong restrictions on many activities and a degree of economic slowdown continued on for months afterwards, with consequences for many. We saw the need to distribute food and emergency funds continuing four months into the crisis while virtually everyone else had gravitated back to their own priorities.
What had initially felt like the start of a movement became a lonely endeavor.
This is one of several disillusionments. For 8 years we’ve been modeling life among the poor hoping that others would follow, but none did. For 6 years we’ve modelled service to others via literacy locally in the hopes of sparking a larger movement, yet every breakthrough has been met with eventual disappointment. At times I have been in a bit of demand as a motivational speaker, talking about the power of faith and service, but while I get a lot of applause and platitudes I feel little lasting impact.
Not that this post is meant to be depressing. We’re not giving up. But we do feel the need to reassess and reorganize. We’re obviously in a world that needs to change. How do you spark that change?