Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Go out there and help the poor!

"If you want to be a godly woman, you should go out and help the poor and needy, instead of spending your days polishing the bathroom sink."

***

This, my friends, is the first time I get such a scorching remark in response to a post about cleaning and home organization; a milestone! Most of the negative comments I receive come as a reply to my posts about feminism, masculine leadership and the role of women.

But, as I already said several times, while I have no intention to allow a hostile spirit in my comments section, even personal insults can be a blessing if they cause me to stop, think, and double- and triple-check my attitude, which is precisely what I'm going to do now.

Not to brag, but just to clarify, I will say that I definitely support – and practice – helping others and extending the hand of fellowship to those who need it. As someone who experienced the overwhelming kindness of strangers, how can I not? In the past few years, I volunteered in the local community center; tutored a sick child without receiving any payment, for many months; baked for charity events; collected and donated used clothes and other items; no, I'm not saying I do enough – but one never stops growing, isn't that so?

However, here's something I have a problem with: the idea that it is acceptable (or even encouraged) to neglect the needs of our most loved ones, the people closest to us, the ones God entrusted us with – our family – in order to go out and do something 'for the greater good'.

This might ruffle someone's feathers, but I think that if my home is dirty and messy, meals aren't provided on time, the refrigerator is empty, the dirty laundry hamper is overflowing, and I haven't spent quality time with my family, or neglected my spiritual life, for a while now – this means something is wrong! I'll even tell you what: from the best intentions, from trying to do as much good as I possibly can, I end up doing harm.

Please note that I'm not referring to emergencies. If I see an injured stranger who needs a ride to the hospital, I'll drop my grocery bag or brush and mop or whatever I'm doing at the moment, and I will help. But if, for instance, I volunteer in the local elders club, while my Grandma stays home alone, her needs unattended, I just don't see how this can be right.

I remember this story I heard once, about a man who was asked, 'what does your wife do?' to which he replied, 'she takes care of unwanted children'. Some nodded approvingly, but then his honesty got the better of him and he added: 'the children are our own, and well, if she didn't take care of them, they would be unwanted!'

Don't get me wrong; if you can fit volunteering (or any other activity) in your life without your immediate duties suffering and without living in a hectic, crazy pace, that's wonderful. But if you have a family, you have obligations – a daughter to her elderly parents, a wife to her husband, a mother to her children; for them, you are irreplaceable. Without taking care of those who need you the most, you cannot have peace and order in your life. And if you don't have that, how can you bring it to others?

53 comments:

Terry said...

Thanks, Anna. You said that well. I think our culture has lost total sight of the importance of home and family, and that's very sad.:(

Maggie said...

If they would like to polish my bathroom sink I wouldn't be opposed to that and it would indeed be a work of charity :)

Sorry Anna, the flippant remark just phew right off my fingertips....but yes, as Terry said, society seems to have lost track that Family is important.

Mrs. Brigham said...

Who can better help the poor and needy than a healthy & well cared family? If one's house is hurting and falling apart, what do they really have to offer another? There are so many ways to help those in need from home, be it opening the doors of your home for hospitality, providing childcare for a single mother as she job hunts, using coupons to buy food for a food bank or provide some extra food for a family in need, the list goes on & on. It is silly to think that there is only *one* way to help the poor.

Also, it should not be forgotten that children need to be taught to be generous and help others. Who better to not only teach them these important values, but also model them, than their parents at home.

Becky K said...

Anna,
I so agree with your comments. I truly believe that everyone will benefit from a clean home that is organized, full of love and faithfulness. As long as you do your work, no matter where it is, with great pride and satisfaction towards God then nothing can go wrong. I, personally, cannot wait for my turn to be able to bless my home, my husband and future family with all my hard work and home management. You go girl!!

Mrs.B said...

Well said Anna!

I find it so interesting that someone would assume that just because you believe God and family comes first that would mean you don't care about the poor or helping others. That's quite an assumption and a judgment to make about someone they don't even know.

Lora said...

My husband and I are involved in helping people over in Ethiopia. One of the complaints I hear from others about our involvement in this ministry is that we should really be using our time,money and other resources to help "our own people in our own country." I gently respond,
"Yes, I couldn't agree with you more. What are YOU doing to help make that happen?"
I have never,ever,ever heard anyone say anything other than, "Um,well, um...."

So, we now know how much you, Anna,are doing to help the poor along with having a clean sink! ;) I just wonder exactly how much your nay-sayer is doing to help them as well?

Persuaded said...

Of course I totally agree with your remarks, that is no surprise:-) It does surprise me though, when people, seem to think that all the "important" ministries can only be done by leaving one's children and home behind. Why, I think that our home can become our greatest place of ministry and not just to our own families. We are scripturally called to hospitality- I think because a warm welcoming home full of well cared for people is a rare thing in this world. Others are drawn to it. Allowing them to be a part of what we create, with God's help, within our own four walls can meet needs for food, companionship, and so much more. Ultimately it may lead them to the One who can meet all of their needs.

Kelly said...

Well said Anna. There are also just seasons to all of our lives where we may like to get out there and help others but it's just not possible. I used to teach sunday school and tutor children, and I spent a lot of time on that as a single woman. Now with a toddler at home, while I would love to do that again, now is not the season of my life for that. It just wouldn't be right to leave my daughter with a babysitter just so that I could say I'm helping others. There will be a time in my life again, in the future, where I will have time to devote to helping others. We are responsible to our families first. How much good are we really doing out there if our family is neglected.
Kelly

tales_from_the_crib said...

thank you again for a well thought out and honest response to those who seek to misundertand your purposes. well said indeed.

Jennifer said...

Amen! I definitely hear where you are coming from Anna. We have a responsibility to both for sure.

Whitney B. said...

This is a great post! I have found myself caught in that trap before. Praise the LORD that I was able to see the truth in that situation. Thanks so much for your blog. It is such a blessing.

Sayward said...

Anyone remember Mrs. Jellyby from Dicken's Bleak House?

JoAnn said...

As usual, what a great post. I couldn't agree with you more. :)
JoAnn

Julia said...

I agree. I think the focus of this blog is domestic things. If you want to talk about your job in the hospital or the good you do for others or what was up in your church/synagogue then you certainly could, but it doesn't seem to be the focus of this blog.

A woman with her home life in order has a greater ability to help others. Also, I think caring for our own elderly and children is helping the weak. You don't get the same glory as someone working with a group or institution, but that's not really the point is it? I hope that doesn't come across as being against people who go out into the world more to care for others. They are both very important, and I think what's important is what is in your heart while you are doing the work.

Ashley said...

Lol. If I tell my husband about this story I reckon he'll probably use it!

This whole post is so true!!!

Stefanie said...

As usual, you bring such a balance to issues. I admire that. It is so easy to feel that we are not doing enough, and I like the way you highlight the little things you do. Those little things add up in a lifetime to what we have to give.

Anonymous said...

I agree with what you said. That said, I don't keep my house perfect, for me sometimes there is a need more important than making sure my house is clean. Like you said, the key is finding a balance.

Kate said...

This is a bit off-topic, but I'd love to hear (read) more about your community and support network. You're obviously close with your family, despite, disagreements, and you seem to get a lot of support online. But do you have friends and mentors who support you in person, on a day-to-day basis?

Jennifer said...

You said that so well! God has blessed you with good decernment!

the other Jennifer

Kate said...

Amen!

I really am thankful I came across your blog. It truly is an encouragement!

Thankyou!

deb said...

I think that this is your best article yet. How strange that someone would assume that focusing on your famiy will somehow keep you from ever reaching out to help others.

Alexandra said...

Many of us SAHMs do a lot for charity both by ourselves and with our churches. You do it because it's right and fitting. It's not something you advertise to gain support or admiration from others. It's a part of living through Christ.

Daughter of the King said...

great post about priorities...
thanks for the reminders,,
Deby

Kristy Howard said...

As a pastor's wife AND mother to small children, I sometimes feel pulled between doing all the "extras" and caring for my own home and family. I definitely agree with you that going the "second mile" isn't really accomplishing much if you aren't taking care of those who need you most. What a great post.

~Kristy

The Chatty Housewife- said...

Amen sistah! I like your ability to answer these types of comments in such a mature manner. I couldn't do it!

Anonymous said...

I don't really like the story about the dad. It's not funny. It's a joke about a "man" not wanting to take care of his own children... do you get that? I'd be furious if my husband said that about our children.

As far as the rest of your post, none of us can do everything... so we need to do what we can and help where we can, prayerfully.
:)
Emily

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, & yes! As usual, you are on the mark, Anna. I decided to read the other comments before jotting down my own...I suppose there really is not much original thought to add. But I wanted to cast my vote anyway. It is an attractive trap to fall into, thinking that helping others is something accomplished only "out there". If we believe that, we couldn't be more wrong.

Brenda

Anonymous said...

Anna- I am a feminist and not religious. I read your blog because I am interested in your perspective. I feel I can be respectfully interested in the opinions of people with whom I do not agree. I wish all the feminists who apparently read your blog felt the same. I don't see why people would come to a private blog to make petty and uninformed attacks like this. The fact that you took this malicious, groundless little jab and really used it as a tool to contemplate your choices and consider the issues involved is something I really admire.
-Lisa

Cristina (a.k.a. "Stramenda") said...

Well said Anna . . . I have nothing to add !

Mrs. G said...

Great post. The last paragraph expressed it so well. This topic has been an issue for me for the last several months, due to a pastor telling me to leave my baby and go on an overseas mission trip. I wish I could have expressed myself as well as you have here!

Sammybunny said...

well said anna!

Buffy said...

It's funny how modern culture sees everything as either/or isn't it? Either you are a good homemaker or you can help the poor. Interesting, I didn't know one had to choose!

Katy-Anne said...

Jesus says that the poor will always be with us, and we are never commanded to help any that aren't Christians involved in a local church. This does not mean that we SHOULDN'T help them, it simply means we aren't COMMANDED to. A lot of people are poor because of sin and religion. In America, a lot of the poor are poor because they are drug addicts or alcoholics or such. In other countries, they have healthy animals and unhealthy, poor children because their religion says that the cows are the most important thing, above their family, so they won't eat them. It would be wrong to help any of those kinds of people money or needs wise because then you would be being involved in their sin. The only way to help the majority of the truly poor (and not just those that think they are poor because they have a little less than everyone else...such as a beat up car as opposed to no car at all) is to share the Gospel with them.

Lutheran Woman said...

I will tell you, the reason why I come to this blog is because you have the gift of explaining the vocation of women. As a Lutheran, this teaching has gone to the way-side as many have been drawn away from our confessions to be more like the majority of Christians in our country.

Martin Luther was very big on teaching the laity about their vocation and how fulfilling your God given vocation is of the utmost importance as seen here on this blog: http://cranach.worldmagblog.com/cranach/archives/2007/08/luthers_on_chan.html
"A wife too should regard her duties in the same light, as she suckles the child, rocks and bathes it, and cares for it in other ways; and as she busies herself with other duties and renders help and obedience to her husband. These are truly golden and noble works. . . ."

Some of the Lutherans today are doing all they can to get back to the teachings of vocation. By doing this we are point back to Christ and the Scriptures and fulfilling the Word of God by submitting to the order of creation.

I myself must tell you that in my double diget years of being married and having 8 children I have not been happier until just a few months ago when my husband realized that the real problem within our marriage was the effects of feminism on him. My husband is a very manly man and was raised to view women as equals. In so doing he yelled at me as if I were a man, he physically handled me, he disregarded my emotions, my feelings, my weaknesses etc. Feminism taught my husband that he could say and treat his bride in anyway he wanted within legal limits.

He was a bully, a brute and made me feel insignificant.

Today my life is different. I learned how to diffuse his anger when he falls into his old habits and he has learned to look at me as the weaker sex, one that should be treated liberally with mercy, love and forgiveness.

Gothelittle Rose said...

In the end, the person's comment comes down to: "Why don't you spend your days polishing other people's bathroom sinks?"

hailey's beats and bits said...

i think you're helping those who are spiritually poor. remember, there are many kinds of poverty: economic, cultural, spiritual, social, etc..

Tammy said...

Another well-stated post, Anna. Wife and Mother are irreplaceable, and her family & home are her priority. This is something many pastors' and missionary wives struggle with!

...I hope you have a speedy recovery from the flu :o)

Anonymous said...

Katey-anne,
you also need to meet people's physical needs or they're not going to listen to you. If you fill their stomach, they will be much more receptive to hearing about Jesus. :-) And nowhere in the bible does it say not to help unbelievers, they need the most help!!!!

I understand people with families don't have the time or energy to serve others without taking away from their family. But many of us do have the time, so we should do something with it.

Anonymous said...

LutheranWoman-

Does your husband yell at men he works with? Does he physically attack them? Does he heap abuse on the men in his life, at work, at church and at home?

If not, then feminism is not why he is a bully. If not, then he bullied you *because* you are weaker, not because he didn't realize you aren't.

Good luck in your marriage. I'll be praying for the safety of you and your children.

In Christ,
Emily

50shousewife said...

What a wonderful post! Thank you!

I posted something similar about priorities recently.
http://50shousewife.blogspot.com/2007/11/priorities.html

Anonymous said...

Anna, as usual, you have made a very good point. I will offer my perspective on this.

My mother was always so good about helping others. As I was growing up, I always heard how wonderful she was. And I will say that she has had a positive impact in the lives of others. Truly, though, it was at the expense of her own family.

She decided early on that she would never make breakfast for her husband. I recall my father cooking breakfast for us, but rarely, if ever did she. Our dinner meals were often last-minute, haphazard affairs. Yet, she would prepare elaborate meals to take to families who had an illness or new baby.

To me, the message was that I was not as important to her as strangers were.
In the same way, she held very little stock in keeping the house neat. I actually had to read books on how to keep up the house when I got older. I knew how to do "deep cleaning" as she called it, but I had no idea how to keep the clutter down, to make a home warm and cozy and inviting.

I still struggle with this, and it brings tears to my eyes even to write it now.

I volunteer very little outside our home, and my husband (who does more volunteer work than I do) and I coordinate to make sure that our children are looked after FIRST if one of us is going to be out of the home.

I could go on....there are so many memories of being alone while my mother attended to some "poor unfortunate" person. It was a very lonely childhood.

One other result was that I was afraid to have children, afraid that I would not know how to nurture. I am happy to say that with a lot of prayer, reading, mentoring by older women in my church, and a firm committment to honoring my family first, I am doing better than I first thought I would. I am now 40 with 9 GREAT kids.

There are a lot of things I can do to help the poor that don't require me to abandon or neglect my family. Sometimes that means I write a check so that someone who has the time, but not the financial means, can go and do the work.
God bless you in all that you are doing.

Jordin said...

This is such a good post, Anna! Well said, as usual! :)

Mimi said...

Anna,
very good thoughts... we can get so caught up in "Helping the needy" that our own families become the needy ones... great post...
I hope you kick this flu bug very soon!!

Lylah said...

Because I live on-purpose and because my homefront is my priority and "ministry" flows from my "kitchen"...i've served in my community...in seeking to build a bridge from one heart to another. until recently....this is what i did - http://lylahledner.blogspot.com/2007/08/making-difference.html

i so love your heart, anna. may the Lord grant you the desire of yours.....lylah

Diana said...

"The fact that you took this malicious, groundless little jab and really used it as a tool to contemplate your choices and consider the issues involved is something I really admire.
-Lisa"

I agree with Lisa's comment - admirable job!

The reminder about looking after our own homes and families is a bittersweet one for those of us stuck in the workforce, I'm afraid. Just recently I have been so convicted about getting our home in order (I live with three other young ladies) as well as paying more attention to the needs of those who raised me! I lvoe my parents dearly but sadly feel that their need are often neglected - I do believe that there is a place in any older parents' life that only their adult child can adequately fill for them... Being a daughter to my elderly parents is an important job that only I can do!

By the way, I came over here via Crystal's blog on Biblical Womanhood :)

Diana (in Australia)

Anonymous said...

I thought I'd throw this little bit in; Just because we are home and taking care of our families, does not mean we are not helping other people too. How many times have you done something for someone, and just done it anonomously? Our family has done many things over the years for others, but we just haven't told everyone about it. I wouldn't want to hurt someone's pride, or make them feel bad by making them feel beholden or whatever. It's very hard to be on the receiving end of help, and truly so much easier to give.

Mrs. Jo said...

Great post as usual Anna! I struggle a lot with the feeling that people, even Christians in my church, think I'm lazy or spoiled because I'm a stay-home mom. However, how many husbands have delicious packed lunches with nutritious foods and home-baked bread and cookies? How many kids have a mommy to read to them and cuddle them throughout the day, watching over them with a careful eye? How crazy that everyone in the world is rushing around at break-neck speed, eating fast food and sinking into depression from stress and they think WE who have a home-keeper mentality are the crazy ones. I agree with Gothelittlerose who said they really want you to be polishing someone ELSE'S sink! Teach someone else's kids or take care of the elderly in a nursing home and you are a professional. Stay home and take care of treasured love ones in the same way and you are a lazy and brainless loser!
Next time I'm out and someone asks me what I do, I will have to remember to say, "I am involved in caring for needy children." When they nod their approval, I'll explain, my children ARE needy, they NEED their mommy!"

Coffee Catholic said...

Mother Teresa always made a point of reminding everyone that sometimes the "poor" are the poor-in-spirit right there in your own home. If we neglect our families then we create poverty right under our own roof! How can we go and serve the poor like Martha without first serving our family like Mary? God isn't going to smile upon our good works outside the home if we leave poverty in our wake.

Tiffany Murray said...

I am one of the people that does not see things your way (at all) but I think whoever left the comment about working in ethiopia is dead on. People love to criticize what they do not understand, and will tell someone they should be doing XYZ while they probably do nothing themselves.

If someone wants to bash you, I suggest they ensure that their life is perfect first.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you. Sometimes I think churches put such an emphasis on serving that it starts to feel selfish to tend to your family needs first. That is backwards. Family first, then serve from the abundance that results.

Persuaded said...

Anna.. I just wanted to let you know that I discussed this issue on my blog today and (I hope you don't mind!) linked to your article here. Please, let me know if this is a problem in any way!
Hope you are having a wonderful day:-)
Diane

Heather said...

I'm surprised that no one mentioned the possibility of taking older children with you as you minister to the "needy." Obviously when you have younger children, your place is at home with them. But as the children mature, what better way to "kill two birds with one stone" than to take them to soup kitchens, can drives, clothes banks, etc. and let them see charity in action?

Luba said...

Oh, Anna, you are very right in this aspect. I wish I were following your blog when you first started writing it. There is so much "glamor" in helping others, some girls think. It's all about being in the spotlight, being noticed. However, if we are neglecting that which no one sees (our spiritual lives and our homes and families, our health), we will soon not be able to help anyone, including ourselves. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us!