When I was growing up, my entire family would go on vacation together: grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, and cousins. These vacations were amazing spending so much time together as a family. One summer, we all brought our bikes down to Nags Head for our vacation, and as I was riding through the resort with my dad I crashed my bike. My dad got me back to the house and gave me a band aids to cover my scrapes. Everything was okay, I healed and life went continued. The next year, I begged my Dad to let us bring our bikes again and I crashed once again in the exact same place. Once again Dad bandaged me up, but this time it came with along with another solution to the problem - my Dad made the decision that we would not be bringing bicycles to the resort again. I was not particularly happy about the decision, but I also had no more abrasions from bicycle accidents.
When Band Aids Don't Solve the Problems
Now this is more than a comedic story of my clumsiness, it is an illustration of recognizing that for some problems short term fixes will not be a complete solution. Band aids are a really great way to think about short term solutions, sometimes they are absolutely the right means to treat a scrape. However, in other situations it is completely impractical to use a band aid in order to properly treat a medical problem. A band aid will not solve a head ache or cure diabetes.
Sometimes, while we are attempting to meet the essential needs in others, we are offer short term solutions (band aids) without considering the adequacy of the response or whether or not we we are solving long term cause of the needs. Many times our own awareness, training and/or resources effect our ability to respond with a combination long term solutions. In order to establish these solutions, it requires a deeper understanding of problems and the factors that contribute to these problems.
Systemic Problems Need Systemic Solutions
These systemic problems are often entangled with a multitude of issues. Sometimes the very systems of society perpetuate these issues making them very challenging to overcome. For example, a good proportion of people who are homeless have struggles getting a job and having an established address is often needed in order to apply for a job, yet housing is often the largest expense people have. One needs housing to get a job, and yet they need job to get money so that one can afford a home. If you are missing any factor in the chain of needs, then there will be challenges. Another example would be that families in poverty in foreign countries need children to spend their days helping to provide food for themselves and their families rather than going to school; however, education (over time) is one of the clearest ways out of poverty which would potentially solve the food access problem that families in poverty often experience. This is why Rise Against Hunger (formerly Stop Hunger Now) provides the grain-based meals that people pack at events predominantly are given to schools. This in turn encourages children to pursue an education and which provides the opportunities for families to the see the value of education, which given some time will put a major dent in poverty and food access issues. So solutions to systemic issues require systemic solutions that change the system.
Where do we go from here: Education, Partnerships and Advocacy
We need to become more educated on systemic issues that face Kempsville, Virginia Beach, and Hampton Roads in order to adequately respond to those needs. One of our fellow United Methodist Congregations, Virginia Beach United Methodist has made great efforts to respond to the homeless at the Ocean front, but they have also developed long-term partnership in their immediate surroundings in order to provide some relief efforts. We must partner with people and organizations in Kempsville, if we are going to meet our surrounding community's needs. Recognizing that some of the needs we will encounter are greater than we can solve on our own we will need to partner with others; but we will also need to advocate with local, state and federal officials that have the ability to make a difference on a larger scale and have a larger and longer impact.
Grace and Peace be with You,