Working for a non-profit that helps families living in poverty in the colonias of Mexico, I have often heard the question, "Why help people in other countries when there are plenty of people in poverty right here?"
It is a good question and an important one.
Sometimes we set up a false dichotomy that we must choose between helping people in poverty in our community and those in another country. I am not talking about foreign aid and compulsory tax dollars. This is about where and how we choose to help others with our own money. We can help locally and around the globe.
Our board members and volunteers are passionate about helping people in Mexico's colonias, but they are also passionate about helping their communities. We've had board members who fostered children, adopted special needs children, volunteered at local food banks, rushed out to help neighbors during floods and hurricanes and worked at local church organizations.
Christians learn that it is easy to love your friends, but we are called to love our enemies. I never think of the poor in other countries as my enemy, but I know that many people see them as a threat. To those, I respectfully suggest that by helping those struggling to survive in their country, we decrease the temptation to rush into the United States for a better life.
Some people donate so much money and time to a local charity that they cannot also help those in other countries. We respect those people.
Just as all people are not called to be ministers, teachers, or painters, all people are not called to works of charity in one country. We've seen charity as a two-way street. Although not widely reported in the media, Mexico sent a hospital ship, military, and volunteers to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. I witnessed Mexican volunteers helping the people of Eagle Pass, Texas, after being struck by twin-tornadoes.
Many believe that selfless charity, where there is no seemingly benefit to the giver and where the acts of love are for strangers, is the best kind of charity.
I believe this is my calling. In this chapter of my life, I think I am doing what I am called to do. There is a difference between poverty and extreme poverty. A few dollars in Mexico's colonias can save a life, where that same amount of money in a rich country cannot do as much.
Lastly, it is especially satisfying to help people that are doing everything in their power to solve their own problems.