Why is it that we so quickly move from seeing a problem or issue to wanting to fix the situation? For 18 summers I have witnessed good hearted people choosing to participate in DOOR because they want to be a part of the solution. This impulse to make a difference is admirable. Sometimes in our rush to be change agents for good we end up doing even more harm.
Effective change agents are people who understand the culture, values, and history of the context they find themselves in. For example, I remember when standardized tests became part of the school my boys attended. At the time the majority of children taking the test in our school were failing. Children failing tests are never a good thing. From the outside it was easy to blame the teachers, the parents, the community, and the administration. This seemed to be the case from a certain cultural bias. However, what I soon discovered was that if you give a test to a child whose first language is not English and whose primary culture is not “US American” they fail the test every time. Factors such as the quality of teachers, the commitment of parents to their children’s education, the poverty rates, or the skill of the administration do play a role. To limit the discussion to these issues may miss the most significant issue – tests that are biased against the children. I would have never figured this out had I not been part of the community.
I know of no other way to be a change agent short of an investment of time. In an instant world this can feel painful and unproductive. Many of us want to make a difference and we want to make that difference now. There may be time when difference happens quickly, but that is the exception not the rule.
The call of the gospel is to be the people of God. Being requires time. In time opportunities to fix and make a difference will emerge. In the meantime, share a cup of coffee with your neighbor; get to know them. Be free from the need to rush to instant solutions!