The challenge to be with

I found myself very challenged by the lecture on Wednesday last week, and my mind was busy turning the ideas over. Writing up my notes in my previous blog helped me to think it through and reflect on my own experience.

I do spend a lot of time ‘being for’ talking about language and values, on twitter, facebook and right now on my blog, without any interaction with those in need. Though in my defence, I noticed that our speaker also carefully avoided the stereotypes and diminishing language which he described in the ‘being for’ response.

However, I do think that the model we used in the CMA debt advice service is more about ‘working with’ than ‘working for’. It is good to be reminded that ‘being with’ is so important and to value more this aspect of what we do.  Wells talked about how food banks are great because they enthuse people and create energy round the project to bring people together to act. And while we are ‘working with’, we create the space to build relationships and networks, and be with people.

However, I’m too impatient to be with people only one at a time! I was also intrigued by the question about how to translate these ideas into a social policy. In the Q&A session, there was a discussion about care being packaged into 15 minute chunks, and this is a clear example of how being with would be much more satisfactory for all concerned. People being cared for want to be with people rather than just the tick-box checklist of bath, pills, lunch etc.

So I am challenged to be with my kids, my family, and to value being with my clients. The church also can be a model of community and communion, being with people. It is the fraternity, the relationship, the community which is our goal, everything else is how to get there. After all, what is worship all about if it is to just spend time being with God?

So I can take this on board and apply it to my own life, and the church can model it, but how do we pass it on? Is it about valuing people over things – whether there is scarcity or abundance we still need relationships. What do we value? How do we measure worth? How do we measure success? Or even, how do we measure the success of our projects designed to help the poor? It is a challenge to our materialistic economy to value something which can’t be divided up and contracted out, parcelled up and commodified.

So I think I will still be getting angry and going home and writing blogs! But I think my blogs need to be better informed because I have actually been with people and learnt from their wisdom.


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