By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

When Steve and I lived in Mexico on the mission field, we literally saw the good, the bad, and the ugly, both from the standpoint of missionaries as well as “missionees.” (Yes, that is a real word, and it’s been around since the early ‘50s.) At the heart of the helping professions, whether it’s spiritual, medical, educational, financial, practical, protective, or psychological, is a minefield for both the givers and the receivers, and that is the “tendency for dependency.” Simply stated, those who have a true heart to help can, over time, come to enjoy and overly depend upon the fact that those they help have come to perpetually need them and/or their goods and services. Conversely, those in need come to enjoy the fact that the goods and/or services are perpetually available, irrespective of personal choices and lifestyle. Such a scenario ultimately is not helpful or healthy for anyone.

Missionary think tanks have been working this problem for years, and some models have developed that are designed to break what could be argued is a two-way addiction. Three of the most successful have been Dream Centers, Teen Challenge, and the Center for Urban Renewal and Education, all of which are located throughout America and abroad. Their combined stated goals are to meet the immediate needs and then get to the “broken root” so the individual or family can become whole and productive in every regard.

Happily, a new example of “help that verily helps” is opening up in Nashville, and we have a companion endeavor here in Athens that is the brainchild of Pastor Tony Johnson of Friendship Methodist. I am pleased to showcase both as related in their end game and variant in their focus. The first is the project of country music legend Brad Paisley; his wife, actress Kimberly Williams; Belmont University, and other private donors. It is simply called The Store, and it looks as lovely as Sprouts. The philosophy is that clients have an “account” for the space of a year, and in order to “shop” there, they have to be involved in other approved educational endeavors that can get them back on their feet as they implement what they learn. There is a firm but brilliant biblical maxim that says, “If you don’t work, you don’t eat,” and that was applied to the upper class who were a part of America’s Jamestown in its founding. Entitlement can show up just as easily in the aristocracy as it can in those who are on assistance, and proven productivity is one of the cures. The model used for The Store is one that has had great success in other cities, and I would love to see something comparable come to our fair town.

Speaking of, what we have in the Athens Downtown core is a restaurant called the Washington Street Diner, located at 100 East Washington, right next to Mind Volt. The eatery is run by Friendship United Methodist church, and its purpose is two-fold. One is to get good eats at a fair price into the tummies of folks in Athens-Limestone County, and the other is to promote “earning-while-learning” so that those who have received training can land jobs in other restaurants. This frees up their training slot for the next person, and a happy revolving door swings out into the community. Recently I heard Pastor Tony celebrate the fact that one of their graduates is now employed full-time at Terranova’s, located in the former location of LuVici’s. The best part is that “our loss, their gain” is exactly what the doctor ordered, and demonstrates that “the help that verily helps” is alive and well in Athens, AL. Isn’t this a grand place to live?

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