One insight I find very practical from Robert Lupton’s book, Compassion, Justice, and the Christian Life is when he explains the deepest poverty by writing, “Perhaps the deepest poverty of all is to have nothing of value to offer in exchange [for the service being received]. Charity that fosters such poverty must be challenged.
We know from 40 years of failed social policy that welfare depletes self-esteem while honorable work produces dignity” (p. 26-27). I have personally seen Lupton’s words lived out first hand in my work at United Way of Stanislaus County (UWSC). At UWSC we are fortunate to receive “welfare-to-work” individuals who are able to work at our office at no cost to UWSC. Often these are young women who have a child and little support from family members in the area. While working with them at our office we have seen them encounter great change in their lives as they learn and become accustomed to working in an office, maintaining regular office hours, getting along with coworkers, and accomplishing work. Before working with us they were perceived as women on welfare who had nothing to offer, but after working with us you can tell they have a sense of pride and dignity for being able to contribute and serve others.