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“i know something you don’t know…”

10 July 2012

every once in a while, an idea flashes through my mind – usually in the form of a daydream – of something really brilliant and helpful that i could do for my community here on the island. sometimes, it’s financial counseling (after helping a friend who was buried in debt or spending time with my lottery-obsessed neighbors). other times, it’s marriage counseling (after listening to a your-husband’s-not-as-bad-as-mine gab session) or a nutrition class (folks, sweetened condensed milk is not milk). other dreams range from dental health to computer classes to english lessons to green living.

the main thing keeping me from pursuing all of these various visions (inspiring as they may be) is that it’s simply not what i came here to do. my visa to live here and the monthly reports i send to my supervisors have nothing to do with how many cavities or divorces i prevented in my neighborhood (though those things would be celebrated by my supervisors, i’m sure). the other driving force behind my lack of office space and computer labs is laziness. it would require a lot of focused effort to write a book, teach a class, or start a company all in a second (or third) language. and most days i’d rather take a nap or play games on my husband’s cell phone. (another obstacle, one may observe, is my lack of qualifications…)

at any rate, the world tells us that we can do anything we put our minds to, that we should follow our dreams, that we can make a difference! whether or not those statements are true, i’m not convinced they’re always helpful. when i stop to think about it, i’m actually really grateful for the forces keeping me from pursuing all my brilliant ideas, and here’s why: i am not meant to be anyone’s savior.

when i see a friend in need, and my first response is “i should start a business/charity/class/blog to help (read: fix) that person,” it is my pride talking. that response comes from the part of me that is “wise in my own eyes” and “leans on my own understanding.” it’s essentially like saying “the world would be a better place if everyone knew what i know and did what i do.” uh huh.

the other issue is that this attitude is not the attitude of a learner – it’s more like the classic “know-it-all.” when we enter another culture, we must be humble and take on the position and attitude of a small child, learning from observation and questions. if i’m only here to teach others what i already know, i’ve missed the point of being here in the first place.

i believe that community development is an important part of believers reaching out to others. it’s part of good stewardship of our gifts and resources, and it helps us live sustainably. but it’s my prayer that when i begin actively sharing advice, knowledge, or resources, i can do so with a clear conscience. this kind of service requires humility, grace, and patience to keep from being conceited and haughty. in the end, jesus is the only savior, his spirit the only bringer of true change, and his word the only ultimate wisdom. may i learn to share those without reserve and think twice before sharing my opinions.

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