The Problem of
Fletcher L. Tink
A wise man once said that there are really only three ways of seeing people: as machines, as landscape or, as people.
Often we see people instrumentally, as “machines” or extension of machines---the checkout lady at the supermarket, the toll booth collector, the operator on the assembly line. Their robotic motions, their monotonous activity, their replaceable value, all of it leads one to see them mechanistically. Their behaviors are programmed and our response is to be bored or disinterested. We only choose to interact when something goes wrong.
Sometimes we see people as “landscape,” that is, as an extension of their environment. Tourists and even missionaries sometimes photograph “natives” in funny, costumed dress set up against the backdrop of lush natural vegetation. Or it could be some inner city type, caught in the pose of despair and framed in urban ugliness. The photographs stir amusement or pathos or horror. They wrench our emotions and stimulate our passions often without seeing the larger picture.
But to see people as “people,” that is the Jesus way. It takes involvement and relationship. It chooses to journey with the person until real needs are uncovered, real strengths are appreciated, real exchanges occur.
There is a danger in compassion-oriented programs to view donors and recipients mechanistically, assuming sacrifice or need without recognizing the cost of the person behind it. If NCMI has ever done so, please forgive us and help us to do better.
There is further peril in stirring passion and emotion by doing what the TV networks practice, “Bleed Leads,” that is, showing the ugly, awful, or cute to provoke contributions. Presentation of the world’s tragedies must be balanced by honesty, integrity and restraint.
What I find exciting is that many people really do want to experience the world they financially contribute Work and Witness trips, service at the Rescue Mission, Vision trips, etc. , where donors and volunteers venture forth to engage in a personal way the people they are helping.
We encourage this. Yet we understand that many cannot go. These are represented by proxy. But for those who can, it is often a reality check on our services and replaces one’s trifocal vision with eyes healed by Christ