Public invited to Sept. 19 Mather conversation about focusing on people’s talents, capacities

To the editor:

I have a new friend. He is an author, pastor, innovator, leader, follower, and much more. He also happens to be a faculty member at the ABCD (Asset-Based Community Development) Institute at DePaul University in Chicago.

His name is Mike Mather and he recently wrote a book entitled, “Having Nothing, Possessing Everything: finding abundant communities in unexpected places.” We are very fortunate to host him at the Kendallville Public Library from 6:30-8 p.m. on Sept. 19 for a public conversation.

I have his permission to share an excerpt with you. This particular piece was written as a message to churches regarding how we go about “helping” people, but I want you to think about how we do things in the community as a whole. You have heard me talk about Helping Without Hurting and the reason we are moving away from a “free give-away” sort of model at Common Grace Ministries. This is another reason why:

My ears were tuned to what was missing. My hands were busy pounding out songs that invited those in the congregation (community) to join in helping people in their emptiness. In every community — even the communities that are home to those we good … people label as underserved and poor — live men, women, and children filled with power and grace.

I wanted to be a do-gooder who was sent to the inner city — to the “least, and the last, and the lost” … to save and redeem. I began to see the power and agency in the people I came to serve. And I began to ask myself some important questions that shifted how I was seeing my calling, my work. What if I were to start treating the poor as if they were real people — people like me in every respect, except with less money? I began to see that everyone around me wanted to be useful, to be needed, just as I wanted to be useful and needed.

I began not only to notice the gifts of the people around me, but to find a place for them in the life of the community. All my training had been in helping people in their need, but now their talents, capacities, passions and dreams were bumping into me, looking for a way to be expressed, to be useful.

As an Occupational Therapy Practitioner, I was trained to look at what the patient can do, because that’s the only thing that will help them regain the thing they cannot do at the moment. In other words, deficits fix absolutely nothing! It is only the assets that give us the power to live into our full potential. Asset-Based Community Development teaches us to look at assets first in the community. So often, we sit around tables and decide how to fix things for people we don’t even know. We don’t ask them what they can bring to the table or if the thing we think needs to be fixed is even an issue for them.

ABCD flips that so that we are looking at the things we already have available in our community, including the “talents, capacities, passions and dreams” of those we think we need to fix or educate.

Noble New Way and Community Foundation of Noble County are happy to welcome Mike. He will be touring the county with Noble New Way members that day and will bring his observations to the public forum that evening. We hope you will join us to hear Mike speak about his work and his observations about Noble County. For more information, call Jenna at the KPL 343-2010 or Common Grace Ministries at 349-1942.

Rev. Angie Kidd

Common Grace Ministries

Noble New Way

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