A few weeks ago, a little boy who is a faithful supporter of everything that goes on at Aunt Maggie's Kitchen Table arrived in our living room and handed out three envelopes. Inside were several little white pieces of paper that had been cut and stapled together. One piece of paper was left unstapled, and he had written on it " and I love you too" in his large, uneven, first-grade print. He gave it to us with such an expression of joy on his face. What a great gift.
This treasure will remain on my desk for a long while. I want it there as a constant reminder that the best work is being done among the community of the poor when those who are poor begin to realize what their riches are and how they can use their resources to help others. Everyone brings resources and gifts to the table. Sure, there are times when it's not as easy to discern what the gifts are, and at times it's not clear how they are to be used. But I've found that holding onto the belief that everyone has resources of some kind helps guard against burnout. It also guards against feelings of "them" and "us" that can become part of the attitude we hold toward those who need our help.
Aunt Maggie's Kitchen Table is a family resource center located in a Macon, Georgia-area public housing complex with severe gang problems, a high crime rate, and a large concentration of poverty. We began with a five-bedroom apartment and donated furniture, and-after we were in the community for six months-we obtained a three-bedroom apartment next door. The Macon Housing Authority said we surely had "special connections" to get approval so quickly.