Quotation of the Week

According to Loriene Roy, president of the American Library Association, it’s a matter of principle versus reality—”the philosophy of serving all people,” she says, “and the reality of what happens when we do.”

From a Newsweek article titled Too at Home in the Stacks reporting on the rising trend of homeless individuals spending their days in public libraries.


  1. I’m glad someone else appreciated it–I totally resonated with it in our context here…

  2. I thought it was a great quote too, but thought it was a little cryptic. I wonder if most folks will get the drift without some elaboration.

    Do you understand the quote to mean that idealism is always eventually tempered by realism?

    Do you understand it to mean that some poor people will take advantage of hospitality and generosity and abuse an open hand? I guess that take is a subset of the idealism improved by experience thing.

    Do you understand it to mean that folks that work among the poor should focus their work on groups that are more likely to respond positively (the guiding principle of the Grameen Bank, for example, the folks that started the micro-credit revolution by insisting on lending only to poor mothers who would be more motivated to use the money to benefit their families)?

    How did you read it?

  3. Tom,

    You’re right about it being a bit cryptic…

    I think the major chord it struck for me was the first thing you mention: I am surrounded by a ton of idealism (and I am naturally idealistic as well), and it is easy to use a bunch of language/lingo about “values” or “mission”, but when it really boils down to it, the costs of actually doing/living those things can be too high for a lot of people.

    You’re other two points are good ones to ponder, and are certainly relevant to what the article discussed.

  4. I feel you.

    The ministry I just left burns a whole lot of hard working faithful people’s money every year but after 15 years on the job accomplishes very little for poor people.

    The original idea was church planting among the urban poor around the world and concrete, practical service to those most in need but it sort of got hijacked by very nice religious professionals without the experience, energy or (in some cases) individual personal commitment to do the really challenging task at hand.

    These are wonderful people I’m talking about. That’s what makes this kind of critique so hard. How do you take action to move out good people who simply don’t have what it takes to get the mission done?

    Seems like at some point people in churches and organizations like that have got to get past the idealistic notion of being a ‘prophetic example’ for the church by virtue of the attempt itself and start asking for real service to the poor.

  5. And I would add to my earlier comment that I am as often that person faced with the cost that I really don’t want to pay. I’ve described those battles with myself often enough here…

    I am reminded of a sermon I heard preached at a wedding years ago where the preacher said that it is one thing to talk about/desire to be servants. But the “dipstick moment” as he called it is when someone actually treats you like one. That is when the reality of your heart becomes truly apparent.

    This quotation for me was a little bit like that: homeless people hanging out all day in the reference room of a library is a sort of dipstick moment for those saying that “all are welcome” or that they exist “to serve everyone.” And in the church, in my church at least, I feel like we get those dipstick moments often enough around here, and what is revealed is not always pretty…

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