Caring for Creation: October 2014

Kudos to faith communities, places like Hope Church, where genuine caring takes place. Our caring is most obvious in tragedy—the auto collision, surgery, or house fire. When life hurts most, people of faith show up—with lasagna, a ride to the airport, or just a phone call.

Most acts of kindness are unsung; often people want it that way, pain needs to be private; not alone, but private. Sometimes caring is public; especially if fundraising is involved. Local TV stations love these stories. You’ve all seen them—the spaghetti supper, car wash, or brownie sale. Again, I say kudos to the people who drop everything and work like crazy to make caring real.

Caring in this way, however, runs up against barriers. First, caring is hard to sustain, over time emotions become exhausted and adrenaline runs out. Secondly, this is a singular form of response. We’re meeting tragedy one event at a time without much capacity to impact larger problems. There simply isn’t enough brownie mix in Holland.

The term “donor fatigue” has entered our lexicon. Constantly asking for money wears people down; they begin to feel like there just isn’t more to give. I’d like to suggest that fatigue results from misplaced perception. Our resources are not exhausted—misallocated, but not exhausted.

Consider three facts. First, the research which undergirds Holland’s Community Energy Plan indicates that we spend $125 million per year on fuels. Second, Holland has some of the least energy efficient housing in the Midwest. Serious home energy retrofits could save as much as 50% on utility bills. Third, the Department of Energy reports that the average American homeowner spends $2,200 a year on utilities.

I know this is an ideal scenario, but play the numbers game with me. Suppose that each of Holland’s 7,500 houses saved $1,000 a year: $7.5 million per year would be available for other purposes, all without fundraising or new taxes! Consider the potential for Hope Church: what budget problem?

The Bible says that we are to be as mild as doves and as wise as serpents. There’s a way to do that!

Peter Boogaart, Caring for Creation Coordinator