Category Archives: Helping

In search of intentionality

In search of intentionality

 Most of us are very busy – it’s a modern mark of value. There are so many things needing to be done, to be purchased, and to be watched on our screens. We are trained by the ever-increasing rates of media and concerns to move quickly. It gives us very little time for true understanding, or the development of potential and satisfication – in ourselves or in those around us. Through busyness we reduce our focus to just the immediate activity at hand, with the longer range and personal elements becoming secondary if considered at all.

One of the central concepts of a team – be it a group of employees, a family, or a sports team – is that combined strengths lead to shared success. Those strengths include both the hands-on skills of the team members, as well as the emotional ambience and influences that motivate and guide the group.

But when people are busy they tend to become reactive rather than proactive, and functional rather than intentional – the subtleties and considerations get lost – and each moment becomes one of immediate result or exhausted rest. In such a state people are finding it harder to be encouraging or appreciative of others. The emotional ambience becomes an assumption of commited determination rather than a thoughtfulness of how any team member might be lifted up, honoured or encouraged. “We’ve got things to do and you should be doing them right now!” becomes the mindset.

This is not to say that people have become unfeeling or dispassionate – those attributes are hard-wired into us. But telling your busy co-worker or friend “It’s okay – we’ll get through this” is very different from being purposeful in thinking about the people in our lives – from being encouraging – from being considerate and forward-thinking. Telling someone “Hey, I forgot to mention you did a good job last time but you did and here’s another task” is insufficient encouragement, and far short of intentionally seeking ways to recognize people’s contributions.

In a busy world people burn out that could have been lifted up, good ideas go unused or undeveloped, and existing and potential new leaders get discouraged. Without timely communication, personal encouragement, and reflection organizations and lives get stuck in the same pattern and conditions – they lose a better future while they grind through the present.

Every person is different, yet every person has the same needs: to be part of good things, to grow in their skills and potential, and to be recognized and encouraged. You have a vital role in the lives of those around you – not just through the hands-on skills you use on a task – but by being purposeful and intentional in your communication and encouragement. When we intentionally consider people’s needs we develop ways to help them, and also ourselves. When people are encouraged, honoured and built-up good things happen. Yes, it takes time, and yes it takes change, but it’s worth it because helping and encouraging others is a bigger source of joy, satisfaction and positive change than any bottom line can ever show.

You have more influence than you think, and more opportunities than you have been using, to help others and make life better.

Break the cycle of busyness, and bring intentionality back to life.

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A new way of helping

There is a movement afoot that is taking a look at how charity and aid might be done better at both the local and global levels. It is based on the 2009 book, "When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself", by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert.



The authors claim that the causes of poverty are often not truly understood, which routinely results in aid strategies that actually harm both poor people and the helpers themselves. Now, two years after the book's release, author Steve Corbett is on a speaking tour, presenting new ideas for helping the materially poor.

The suitably-named "Helping without Hurting" conference recently pulled into London, Ontario, and it attracted even more people than the organizers expected, showing great interest in this area for both secular and faith-based organizations.

At the heart of Corbett’s message is the need to:

  • move more quickly from relief efforts to development efforts
  • investigate what is truly needed by the people (rather than assuming we know what they need), and
  • ensure that the people being helped are active participants in moving forward. As Corbett said: “Development isn't done to people or for people but with people.

Corbett gave the example of the ongoing problems in Haiti, where he feels that relief money poured in for too long. Instead of using a work-for-benefit strategy, everything was given away for free (a very common strategy), which resulted in their local employers and food merchants going out of business. By ignoring the valuable human assets already there, the generous but misdirected aid funds actually deepened the poverty in Haiti!

In the past two years Corbett and his team has been busy, working with the Chalmers Center for Economic Development. On this site you can find freely usable new strategies for helping the materially poor.

A key element of an improved aid strategy is to recognize the importance of having helpers willing to walk together with the people in need — a process that takes time, listening and compassion. In an age where we often think that money will fix the problem, it turns out that really knowing and caring about people (and their dignity) is even more vital.

One of the groups partnering in this movement is
Churches Together London
, a group that I am a member of. Started in 2010, this group is a learning and support group for people looking to connect and move forward to help in their neighbourhoods.

Click here to see more photos and notes from the conference.

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The Bakery of Life and Love

I came upon some images of heart-shaped cookies and a cookie-cutter image of a person with outstretched arms. It reminds me that even though each of us is unique – with our own decisions and life journey – that we value the same good and basic ingredients: love, peace, freedom, harmony, joy, music and community.… Continue Reading

The strength around us

We see fire hydrants every day, fortunately not often in use. But there they stand, along our route and near our homes — silent, patient reminders of our shared commitment to safety and community. The fire hydrant, or "fire plug", dates back to the 1600s, when fire crews would prepare a water source by digging… Continue Reading

Honoring Others with Alternative Gifts

There is a growing and excellent trend moving through our society: honoring our friends and family with special gifts for their birthday and on holidays. While there are still times when people need a new iPod, TV, or other gizmo, a lot of people already have a lot of things, and enjoy going out themselves… Continue Reading

The New Glory Days – Pruning back former glory to find new joy

One of my favorite summer flowers is the garden geranium, with its beautiful, summer-long color. It is the type of flower that you can count on, week after week, month after month. With only a bit of watering, and some essential pruning, they will continue to make your life brighter. Growing up, our family hung… Continue Reading

Mothers are God’s most obvious agents of love

In celebration of Mother's Day: The heart symbol represents both life and love. This heart-in-a-heart symbol is a baby growing within its mother, and the loving arms that long to hold us close forever.   In the beginning, God created not just the universe, but also life and love. Today we celebrate Mothers, whose bodies… Continue Reading