Not Better, Just Better Off

When I am asked to speak, I like to hold a Q&A afterward if at all possible. Inevitably, I get asked a slew of questions that imply that the people I am helping do not deserve my help. And I have to be honest here: That line of thinking really makes me angry. Implicit in that line of thinking is that we do deserve the life we got. I intend to write about this a lot more, but to give you something to chew on for now, I give you this excerpt from a talk I gave at the Baptist Student Union at Campbell University several weeks ago.

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Why did I grow up in a house with parents who loved me, who passed on a work ethic and taught me how to dream, how to set goals, how to love? I had nothing to do with it – it just happened. I was in the right place at the right time.

Why did my friend Jimmy* grow up in a house where his mamma’s boyfriend beat him with a fan belt, where mom had to sell her body to survive after Daddy went to jail and where the only male role model in his life was the local pimp? He did not pick that life. He was in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

If you are going to work with broken people, the first thing you have to realize is that you are not better than the people you will be working with- you are not smarter, you are not more in God’s favor, you are not morally superior. You are not better, you are just better off.

How would your life have turned out if you had to steal food in order for your little sister to eat? If you had to go to school three days in a row in the same clothes? If you had to sit on the porch in the cold while your momma is ‘entertaining’ men for money so you can eat tonight? How would you have turned out if your momma had a crack addiction, or if the only time you saw your daddy was on visiting day at the prison, or if you were raped regularly from the ages of 7 to 16?

If you are going to work with broken people, you have to understand that there are all kind of reasons that people are broken, and it often has nothing to do with their salvation, or their walk with God, or their eternal destiny after their death or whether they said some prayer.

Some of you are resisting… Hugh,  Do you mean that the relative wealth I enjoy (and if you live on  more than $2.50 a day, you are wealthier than half of the planet) is not God’s gift to me, but luck, or circumstance or the result of my race and culture inheriting the wealth produced by enslaved people on stolen land? Yup. That is what I mean. You were born into the right place, at the right time.

You are not better – just better off.

* I often change my friend’s names in order to protect their privacy.

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Hugh Hollowell

Hugh Hollowell

Pastor & Executive Director at Love Wins Ministries
Hugh is a Mennonite minister and the founding director of Love Wins. He likes peanut M&Ms.