A Demeaning Spirit of Giving
I recently spoke with a woman who spent a good year of her life (with her small children) destitute. She made the incredibly brave decision to leave her abuser and take her children with her. You and I and all of our sweet readers would agree that this took miraculous courage. Others might not. My friend ran into some who were supportive, some who were suspicious of her and some who downright discarded her (most of us know this kind of agony). One of the most difficult and unexpected struggles my friend had, were the ways in which others “gave” to her. She writes this:
The clothes we were given weren’t nice enough to go to Goodwill . . the cans of food wouldn’t fit into any recipe I could come up with. We got the unwanted stuff. And every offer for help felt suspicious — like people were drawing boundaries around the kids and me for fear we would take advantage of them. We had people bring us meals with their little kids staring at the little place we lived, with pity in their eyes. I had been trying to teach my children gratitude NO MATTER WHAT. It was hard.
Another friend tells me that she was offered places to stay under HEAVY contingencies and for short periods of time — not enough time to catch her breath. Again, almost as if the offers were safe-guarding the offerers, making sure that the victim was not going to “use” them. (She had to show that she was willing to work, help paint the house, clean, etc). This friend said to me, “I just wanted rest. I wanted someone to say, ‘You are safe right now. We will help you. You truly DO have family.'”
Another woman wrote me this today:
My power was about to get shut off last winter and I asked my church for help. They acted like I had asked for a million dollars! They had to think about it and pray about it and run it past everybody. It took several days. They never even got back to me about their decision. On the last day I had to pay before it got shut off I called the church secretary. I was humiliated and felt like I was begging or bugging them. She said that the associate pastor had taken the time to go to the drop box that day and pay the $116 to keep it from getting shut off. I was still behind another month. The church just got me out of the hole for a couple of weeks. They let me know that they could not help me again. Of course, they post the weekly tithe and monthly need, including the amount they’re short, in every single bulletin. Right after Christmas last year they spent over $1000 on perennials!
I went through a short period like this, as well. While I was grateful for what I was given (and there were some very big givers), the spirit in which it was given sometimes felt demeaning. It did not help my situation at all. However, it has spurred me on to great, great prayer over hopes that God will give me the resources to help other women and children who find themselves in desperate situations upon leaving their abuser. Sometimes, we need to help be a bridge from brokeness to beauty. A restful, unassuming, peaceful, hug-filled bridge.