Sometime ago while my wife and I were living in India, she volunteered at a foster home for children whose parents had once had leprosy. Once those parents caught the disease their community ostracized them even after they were treated and cured. Unable to find a job, the parents struggled to provide food for their children much more the things their kids needed to attend school. The man who started the foster home, in spite of being surrounded by overwhelming poverty, did so to positively influence a few. He took in several of the kids whose parents were in this situation during the school year, gave them a place to live, food to eat, clothes and school supplies so they could attend school during the year. Then they would return home to their parents when school was out of session. In this way, the children born into this difficult situation could still have a future ahead of them.
Poverty, like many other global problems, feels so daunting that we are tempted to do nothing about it. What can we do that will even begin to move the needle and make the problem better? This man, however, decided to see the people instead of the whole problem. He didn’t solve the problem in general, but for those he did help, it made a lifetime of difference.
Sometimes we feel disappointed when our projects don’t end up impacting many people. We feel discouraged at our powerlessness to change large systemic issues and sometimes chose not to even try. Perhaps instead we should stop trying to see problems in the large and instead focus on the people those problems affect. How can we make a difference in their lives?