Do you ever watch This Is Us? It’s a very popular and well-done television drama that moves between the youth and adulthood of three siblings (twins and an adopted son born on the same day) who lose their father when they are seventeen. There are all sorts of story lines that reflect issues that real people face every day.

One of the characters, Randall, is the adopted son and has this outsized sense of responsibility. He thinks he has to take care of everyone.

In a recent episode he goes to a community center and sees all the problems that the people in this poor neighborhood have to face. He is incensed by what he thinks are solvable issues and goes to see the local councilman to get him to do something about them. Because he is skeptical about the politician doing anything and because he is impatient by nature, he goes back to the community center and fixes the streetlight outside the building.

In a revealing scene he has a conversation with one of the community residents. He says, “I fixed the streetlight.” She smiles, says, “I know you did,” then looks down the dark street and says, “One down and eight thousand more to go.”

His response is, “You gotta stay on ‘em. We deserve better than this.”

And this is what she says to that: “We are not a ‘we.’ You are not one of us. You brought your daughter to come play here. But instead of sitting and chatting and getting to know the place, you spent the whole day seeing its problems, trying to fix them. I’m not sure you even know why. We are not our problems.”

If you have read When Helping Hurts, you couldn’t watch that scene without thinking that it made one of the major points of the book: Often we don’t see people; we just see problems that we think we can fix.

Too many mission trips, staffed by well-meaning but misguided Christians, have been focused on solving problems and not on getting to know people who are different from ourselves. From the outset of our relationship with the House of Hope in Cochabamba, Bolivia we have tried to have a different approach, fueled by a desire to get to know people, to learn from them, and to walk alongside them.

If you are one of the many people who have this desire to help others in Jesus’ name but need to learn how to help without hurting, then I urge you to consider going on this year’s trip, June 6-16, 2019. We need to firm up the participants very soon, so if you are interested talk to me, Kristy Engel, or Jim or Jodie Samp as soon as possible.

And for all of us, whether it is in Bolivia or in our own neighborhoods, if we follow our Savior’s lead and show more interest in people than in their problems, we can do some good.