May 16, 2016

Asking the Right Questions

By Sylvia Anderson

An insensitive word, even if it’s not meant to be hurtful, can change the course of an entire conversation.

In my 15+ years of working with people who are homeless and hungry, I’ve realized how important it is to ask the right question. I fully admit I asked the wrong questions for awhile, but now that God has allowed me to see how changing a few words can open the door to a relationship and compassion, I want to share what I’ve experienced.

Don’t Ask “What’s wrong?” – Ask “What happened?”

When people see someone with greasy hair and tattered clothes sitting on a pile of newspapers, often their gut reaction is, “What’s wrong with them?”

Those words address character, not circumstances. No one needs their character attacked. And it is especially not helpful for someone who is battling poverty.

I am sure that those who ask this question often do not mean any harm. But asking the question at all could indicate an inclination to judge those who are different from us.

The Right Question

Recently I’ve realized that a better question to ask is, “What happened?”

There is a reason why someone is trapped in long-term poverty. It could be a health issue, it could be a generational cycle or it could be a tragic event. When we show someone we care about their situation, we show that we care about them. Plus, if we know the root cause, we are better able to offer real, lasting help.

When we ask the right question, we get answers that allow us to see someone as a person – dearly loved and valuable. And not a problem to be solved. That’s what it’s really about. It’s about loving people just how they are, because that’s what Jesus does for us.

Get the Word Out

As a partner with Everett Gospel Mission, I realize you probably don’t struggle with this the same way many people in our culture do. But I’m sharing it with you today because I want your help to get the word out. If we all understood poverty differently and approached our brothers and sisters in need with true compassion, I know that even more lives would change here in Snohomish County.

I encourage you to share this post on Facebook, (Link to FB) so you can continue this conversation with your friends, family and colleagues.