When is the Best Time to Do Each Thing?
by Robert Pianka
Do each thing when you are challenged and can
meet the challenge. Grow stronger by fulfilling your obligations.
Hereís a perfect example. Historically, now
is the time for Orthodox Christians in America to take their engagement
against poverty and alienation to a higher level. Given the hard work and
success of previous generations, we now have human and financial resources to multiply
our impact. And, given the contrast between our Faith-based motivation and our
"presenceÖin philanthropic work", we need to exceed our
Orthodox still represent less than 2% of the American population. Divided into
a dozen jurisdictions, they simply cannot survive the growing pressure of the
American "melting pot"... No "jurisdiction" by itself can
meet the urgent needs of better education, Orthodox presence on university
campuses, in the public communications media, in philanthropic work,
SCOBA, 1965 report, Ad Hoc Commission on Unity
Who are the most important people to work with?
Work with your allies in Faith and work personally with those in
First, work with your allies in Faith. Find strength in the
quality of your motivation. Find strength in pan-Orthodox numbers.
Second, work with those in need in your own community.
You can help them better than anyone else. You "speak their
language". And, you are expected to get "your own house in
order" before you show up in other communities. Every community has
within it a "target-population" of people in need. In the 1990 US
Census, 5-million people claimed ancestry from Orthodox homelands. More than
375,000 were living below the poverty line. A community that helps its own
accomplishes three things. It deals with its own contribution to the poverty
problem. It builds "access" to the "target-population"
for public authorities and charities from outside the community. And, it
builds both the "social service capacity" and the relationships
needed to reach beyond its boundaries.
Since the fall
of the Berlin Wall in 1989, fully one-half of the refugees entering the
United States came from the former USSR & Eastern Europe. Of these
611,738 refugees who we were uniquely able to help, 0 were resettled by
Orthodox Christian charities.
Third, as you build your strong collective ability to
help, work with those in need in neighboring communities. For many
parishes this means reaching out to non-Orthodox often Spanish-speaking
communities in the downtown neighborhood where you still go to church. For
other parishes, I recommend looking first to non-SCOBA-jurisdiction
Orthodox communities. Many arrived recently and their success is being
delayed by the "language barrier". And, while our bond might seem
exotic, it is fundamental and sufficient to bridge the gap between strangers
that thwarts so much charitable intention. Those of us who have worked in
this direction also know that our new neighbors in Faith have much to offer
us as we confront the mainstream culture of our adopted country. Many
parishes, will need to reach out far to find people in need. I recommend
they reach out through a fellow Orthodox parish in less favorable
circumstances in a less desirable neighborhood.
What is the most important thing to do at all times?
Live your Faith: engage in Orthodox Philanthropy.
Recognize your obligations and realize their priority over
your other concerns. Inventory the resources and skills you have. Work
together and do first things first. Build your capacity, partner with others,
and reach out.
Do all this personally and during awareness of
Helping others is far harder than helping yourself. We take
pride in our achievements. We donít envy ourselves. A funny thing happens,
though, when our achievement takes the form of helping another. Our experience
of satisfaction has to be carefully negotiated with the
"transaction" of giving and receiving. If we do not create a
personal relationship between the parties to the transaction, the act of
charity is likely to be stained by arrogance and humiliation. Orthodox
Philanthropy, that is "Christo-centric charity," avoids this. In Christís
presence, two persons engaged in an act of charity are "sharing Godís
[Robert Pianka is former U.S. Program Director for International
Orthodox Christian Charities - I.O.C.C.]