Not Everyone is Looking for a Handout

By | February 11, 2015

[February 11, 2015] I was on a flight from Atlanta to New York a few weeks ago and met a very nice lady who had just returned from sub-Sahara Africa. Since she was sitting beside me on the plane, I took the chance to ask her opinion about her experience. Her opinion was made with a hand gesture by holding out her hands to me to symbolize someone looking for a handout.

This young woman had just spent two years, minus some trips home; mostly in Ethiopia and Nigeria. Largely due to the work she had done helping bring better “agricultural education,” she had three vivid memories of her time there; it was hot, humid, and dirty. However, that was not the real issue, she told me. It was her experience that the majority of people there were always looking for a handout and this she did not like. The attitude of the common citizen extended also to their politicians. The political leaders seemed to always want to know what you could do for them.

Yet, despite this overall desire to get something from anybody passing through, she said that there were some individuals who stood out from the crowd. A few were not looking for a handout but for a skill to learn that would help them help themselves and their families. She was part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that’s mission recognizes that “every person [should] get the chance to live a healthy, productive life.”1

That is a noble belief. However, I rediscovered that helping those who aren’t looking for a handout is often the best means to helping the most people. Those who don’t want something given to them, those who don’t want a handout, those who want dignity and respect are the ones who deserve the chance for a better life because they are the only ones who can make a go of the opportunities we can provide.

The young lady who had spent time in Africa told me that she would go back again. Her return was not motivated by “helping people” but by the idea that she could help those who would make a difference in the long run. Politicians were not part of that group but the young, motivated men who were fond of calling her the “white schoolmarm.”

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[1] The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is based on the principle that what they do will sometimes fail. Yet, by giving they are providing opportunities, whether in poor schools in America or in parts of sub-Sahara Africa. It is this opportunity that a few will grab and help make their community better.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.