Good Grief! I meant to help!

Accidental Dependence.

If we are familiar with these two words sitting side-by-side, we can often get that ‘oh no’ feeling in our stomachs. Why?

Well, probably because it means that we have found ourselves in a bit of a quandary. We have inadvertently created a situation that we didn’t even mean for or see coming – hence the ‘accidental’ part. The dependency idea we might be a bit more familiar with. Webster calls dependency “the state of needing something or someone.”

Great. But what does that have to do with impact49?

In last week’s blog, Xander explained the idea of ‘self-sustainability.’ (A mouthful, I know.) The essence of this long, hyphenated word is the ability to take care of one’s own needs.  Or, to not be dependent upon another.

However, in our Western culture, due to our big-heartedness and philanthropic bend, we have created what we call accidental dependence all over the world. What?? How could philanthropy and big-heartedness (two great things) create a problem? Well, it starts with our need to find a quick and easy solution to a much bigger problem. I’ll give you an example.

I passed a young man on the streets of India a few months ago who stopped me and asked for some money. We talked for a bit, and he reassured me that he was going to buy a mango across the street for lunch. And he did. But, what if in our conversation I would have offered to send the young man $5 a week from my bank account in the US? I mean, I can spare $5 a week. With the promise to give him $5 a week, I let him know that I’ll do it for as long as I can, but not to count on it always being there in the future.

So, 3 years goes by, and every week my $5 shows up for him. It comes like clock-work and it is always the same amount. The young man doesn’t mean to count on it, but it is ALWAYS there right on-time. Due to this, the young man improves his living situation a bit; moving from a shared room for $3 a month to a room by himself for $10 per month. It is great! His life is improving!

Then, one day, I lose my job here in the US. I can barely make ends-meet, and I hate to do it, but I have to stop sending the $5 a month to the young man because I don’t have it to give. Suddenly there is a problem. The young man can’t pay his $10 a month rent. He can no longer take public transportation. He doesn’t even have money for food just to sustain life. He’s not only back to where he was, but someone else has moved into the shared living quarters, and he has to somehow figure out how to simply make enough money to get by again.

This…is accidental dependence. I saw a need, and I met it. I had the disposable income, and I gave it. I was moved with compassion to do something, and I did it. But, what in the end did I really DO. What in the end did I really GIVE? Was I helping to move him forward, or did I actually create a situation that now has to be resolved?

That is a question we all need to wrestle with.

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