The last ten years of learning about service in South Africa have taken me to an ever deepening understanding that I can do nothing to help. Oh yes, there are times I want “to do something,” and I often revert to the standard accustomed models for international outreach. I realize, however, that I don’t have a clue what it is like to live in post-apartheid South Africa, nor do I know how to fix complex social problems like poverty, unemployment and massive pandemics.
I believe that trying to help people and fix things can amount to enabling and can lead to dependency and helplessness. So often people will do or say what you want to hear, but once you leave, they revert to their ordinary ways of being that have been learned over a lifetime. It is much like what we have all been learning for decades about dependency and co-dependency. I can’t fix anyone; I can only seek to heal myself into the highest and best I can be.
I believe that in LoveLight, we are on a shared quest for spiritual awakening. In my new favorite book, Walk Out Walk On by Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze, they say, “Life learning journeys … are the visits that disrupt our old ways of seeing and widen our view of what is possible.” It has become a work of cross-transformation, giving everyone involved the opportunity to grow and expand. Here are some thoughts I have absorbed from this book and by observing what is happening in LoveLight’s work:
- Solutions to community problems must come from someone living within the culture, not outsiders.
- Our social problems are intertwined and cannot be taken in isolation.
- It takes the true spirit of community to be able to address the complex situations that face communities today, in which everyone works together for the good of the whole and we empower each other toward self-sufficiency.
- Like any kind of healing work we do with each other, it is largely about how we show up as a healing presence, remembering that all healing is self-healing.
I am seeing some motivated leaders emerge in the small town we visit in South Africa, and my money is on them. It is a process of healing deep mistrust that has been learned during apartheid and of inspiring the creativity that is in all of us. Oh Spirit, may I step aside and empower others to lead.