Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Living with Enough

What does it mean to live with enough? How much is enough?

The Bluffton campus community is exploring the issue of poverty through the fourth annual Civic Engagement Theme. Guest speakers, class discussions and assignments, and student life activities planned throughout the academic year encourage us to wrestle with various important civic questions.

This year’s theme is “Living with Enough: Responding to Global Poverty.” Topics chosen for previous themes have been environmental stewardship, security and immigration.

Yesterday Scott Sundberg, Mennonite Disaster Service director of communications, spoke at Forum about how disasters impact people on the margins more so than those in the ‘center.’ He spoke primarily about those affected by Hurricane Katrina in the New Orleans/Gulf region.

While his presentation was thought provoking, one idea in particular grabbed me – he spoke of the “desperation of people in the margins” and then defined people in the margins as the poor, the marginalized, the minority, the sick, the elderly. The elderly? Desperate?

When you think about it, that explains so much about the actions and decisions of our loved ones as they age. At one time they were in the ‘center’- active, productive, self-sufficient, leaders in the community, church and family, doers not receivers. Then, through no fault of their own, they find themselves on the margins; unable to care for themselves due to mental or physical limitations, no longer helping others but needing help themselves. That transition is bound to create a sense of desperation.

While Scott’s focus was more on supporting the poor and disenfranchised, what he had to say is so relevant for the elderly. The ‘center’ must reach out in love and respect, not with a sense of obligation or duty. We must listen. Take time to understand. Make time. Serve in love. Love.

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