Why Does It Make a Difference?

Good morning from Westminster, MD!

Last time we looked at an example of how practical hope made a difference in the life of Danilo, a bakery owner in Nicaragua. It is clear that practical hope makes a difference, but what may be less clear is why that is the case. Today we will begin to answer that question- Why does it make a difference?

As many Brendas, the young girl from the remote village of Albellanas, Danilos, the baker from Veacruz, and El Canon community members, the community garden entrepreneurs, as there are, there are far more people who live in similar circumstances and never escape the trappings of extreme poverty. Why? What is the difference?

The easy answer would be access to resources. These people were given the resources they needed to overcome their circumstances. The people coming from similar backgrounds, but without access to resources along the way are unable to advance for that very reason- a lack of money, education, or of some other tangible item. While there is truth in that statement it does not tell the whole story.

Question- does money solve all problems? We do not have to look very hard to find out that the answer to that question is no. How many people win the lottery only to end up broke and in the same situation years later? How many professional sports players declare bankruptcy after making millions of dollars over the course of their playing career? I could keep going, but I think you get the point. As someone famously said, and my friend Tim often repeats, “You can’t just throw money at a problem and expect to solve it.” Actually, I think Tim says, “All the money in the world won’t end the cycle of poverty, at least on its own.” If it is not only about access to resources, what is it about?

What makes Brenda, Danilo, and others like them different, beyond their God-given drive and gifts, is that someone invested in them, believing that they could succeed and break the cycle of poverty. Practical hope extends beyond the resource itself. Instead of “throwing money at a problem”, opportunity was given by investing in the long-term potential of a person.

I know the difference may seem subtle, but it is the difference between cutting a branch off of a tree to stick in the ground and planting a seedling. Stick (pun not intended) with me here. If you cut a branch off of a tree, stick it in the ground, and hope for the best, you are using a short-term approach to solve a long-term problem. If your goal is to have a healthy, growing tree in your yard, the branch may give that appearance in the short term. However, in the long term the reality will be revealed. It is a stick in the ground without roots and proper care. Eventually, the branch will turn brown and you will be back to where you started- with a bare spot where you wanted a tree.

Planting a seedling and properly caring for it looks a lot different. When you plant a seedling it starts out small, but it has what it needs to succeed, mainly roots. If you care for the seedling – watering it, fertilizing it, and not running it over with the lawn mower – that seedling has a great chance to become a tree and to last for years to come. You have provided what is needed to solve the problem. While at the outset both solutions looked similar from the outside, the reality is that they are very different with very different results. Full disclosure- some branches will grow into a tree in you put them in the ground, but let’s not get caught up in semantics.

I know that analogy may seem like a stretch, but it is a pretty accurate picture of the difference. Providing true practical hope is like planting the seedling and caring for it so that it reaches its potential. When the investment goes beyond the resource itself, hope for a different future is born in the heart of the person. Brenda was not just given medicine and a few dollars to further her education. Someone said, “I believe in you”, and demonstrated it by walking along with her through the journey. Yes, she was given resources, but more importantly, she was told that she was worth it.

Check back in next time to continue answering the question, “Why”.

– James Belt

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