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Monday, March 18, 2013

"Awake" (Noel Brewer Yeatts)

TITLE: Awake: Doing a World of Good One Person at a Time
AUTHOR: Noel Brewer Yeatts
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2012, (176 pages).

Good works that flow out of the Good Word in the heart. Doing good to the world one person at a time. Reaching a larger world regardless of how small or how limited one is. All it matters is a big heart and willing hands. This is exactly what Noel Brewer Yeatts has done. Spurred in part by Timothy Keller's book, "Generous Justice," Yeatts attempts to help believers "wake" up to the reality of a world that needs us more than we can ever imagine. She makes a bold call to try to take readers through various shifts. I summarize some of my seven reflections as I read the book.

First, we need to move from guilt-driven kind of a help toward a justice minded perspective. Using the example of Mother Teresa and the story of the Tuohy family who helps a boy get back on his feet, Yeatts points out the need for a kind of help that will aim to make a difference one person at a time. If one is guilt-driven, one may only get to help on a knee-jerk manner that does not last. If one is led by justice, one will persevere in being creative and convicted about helping a person a long way.

Second, we need to move from sleepy knowledge toward wakeful action. So often, we allow our accumulation of knowledge bog us down to inaction. Like Aquinas, we need to choose to "feel compassion than to know the meaning of it." It is not enough simply to be aware of what is going on. We need to take responsibility for this knowledge and to do something about it. The trouble is, far too many people o not think their participation will make any difference. This is tragic not only for the needy, but also for us. So what are the rich of the world, who as a minority possess the majority of the world's wealth, doing about the rest of the world, who not only are poor, but seem to exist only to serve the desires of the rich?

Third, we need to move from a mentality of handouts to compassionate action. Giving handouts is a cop out to reduce one's guilt feeling. Action that stems from a deep compassion will resemble Jesus' being moved by compassion to action. That means learning to move from mere giving to actual serving, distant awareness to up close and personal human touch.

Four, our giving and helping need to move from haphazard help to strategic assistance. Women in general are more vulnerable. They are also more influential. Like the saying in Ghana, that if a man is helped, it is just one man; but if a woman is helped, the nation is also helped. One strategy then is to pay special attention to the needs of women and to train them to develop help channels in their respective contexts.

Five, move from vague ideas about help toward crystal clear ideas. Take the issue of the lack of clean water. It spawns a host of problems with regards to diarrhoea, malaria, typhoid, as well as the good health. Without good health, one cannot have a good quality of life. Helping the poor does not mean just addressing symptoms. It also means addressing root causes.

Six, we need to move from a boring but safe lifestyle to a bold and significant form of faith. It means radical plans with our own lives. It means learning to make our lives count. It means living a worthwhile life for others. Helping the poor is not simply just wearing a T-shirt. It means wearing the needs of the poor through active engagement with the rich AND the poor. We need to evangelize the former and to be an agent to touch the latter. We need to speak up for the voiceless, listen to the silenced, see the marginalized, and to feel that the world as it is right now, is moving toward injustice.

Seven, we need to move from a sense of complacency to a sense of urgency. I think it is an apt reminder that the biggest tragedy for many people is not because they are successful, but when they are successful in things that ultimately do not matter much. Yeatts urge readers to actively join groups that advocate for the poor and vulnerable; to invest in a child; to be an active part of infrastructure improvements in the needy world; and even to make a trip to the poorest of the poor to experience first hand the reality of injustice, poverty, and suffering.

This book is about changing the world, beginning with changing the hearts of anyone who wants to do some good in the world. The primary audience is essentially the rich West, but the scope can be easily enlarged to include other groups. Containing many stories of faith and trust, success and disappointments, Yeatts encourages us not to look at the problem, be discouraged and then do nothing. Instead, she urges us to look at what is possible, be encouraged, and then do something, even if it means just one life or one small situation at a time. Three thoughts come to mind as I marvel at the resilience and the industry of Yeatts. First, we are not responsible to solve all the problems of the whole world, just part of it. Second, we are not meant to help everybody in the world, just who we can reach. Third, we are not responsible for the ills of the world, but we are responsible if we do not do anything about it. If any of these thoughts can be planted in the reader, this book will have done its job. I'm sure readers will be moved. It is a fitting reminder that while we are not responsible for solving all the problems of the world, we are responsible for those things that we can do something about.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Baker Books and Graf-Martin Communications without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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