How We Can Break Free of the Handout Mentality | by Andrew Vanderput


Handouts can be a pretty contentious term. Hopefully my next statements will help ensure that I do not increase that contention. When you saw  “handout mentality” you might have thought I was referring to the material poor. Actually, I was referring to you. More on that later.

For the sake of this article, let’s define handouts as the provision of resources to people in material poverty without any expectation that the recipients will need to invest their own time or other assets in order to receive those same resources in the first place. Note: Relief or aid given to people immediately after a manmade or natural disaster would not fall under our definition of handouts.

We know that handouts as defined above can be ineffective and damaging. They can create dependency and destroy initiative in the recipients. Why develop your own talents and work to become independent when you know you will be provided for free of cost? Because of this, recipients will become chronically reliant upon their patrons and will never be able flourish themselves, let alone help their communities do the same.

There are a myriad of other reasons handouts are damaging that we could discuss, but I want to get back to you. While handouts can be destructive, it is the views that undergird handouts that are even more pernicious. To be more specific, it is how you see the people you want to help that causes the damage. This may sound tangential but it is not. It is crucial. How you view people will invariably dictate and shape your efforts to help them.

If you only and ever see people as incapable, helpless, unable to contribute, and even burdensome then your actions will naturally flow from that perspective and inform your poverty fighting efforts. You will not partner with the poor, you will patronize them. You will only see their lack, so you will give shortsightedly. This errant view of the material poor is the handout mentality.

Please do not automatically dismiss this point or see it as irrelevant to you. While you may think you do not see the material poor in such light or would never dream of doing so, subconsciously you may. When examined carefully, the causes you give to, and the way you have gone about addressing poverty will tell you a lot about how you see the poor. Given enough critical thought, you might realize you have a handout mentality.

How do we break free of this mentality? We must change our thinking so that the material poor are seen as they truly are: Created by God and fellow bearers of His image. As people full of potential and endowed with incredible, creative abilities. As savvy and entrepreneurial. As partners. As equals.

When you begin to view the poor like this, everything changes. You are no longer focused on lack, want, or deficit. You only see assets, potential, and opportunity. You see all of the enterprise and business opportunities you can support. You no longer see yourself or your institution as the answer. You realize they are the answer. You break free of your handout mentality.


Andrew Vanderput is the Strategy and Engagement Manager at PovertyCure, an initiative of the Acton Institute. Andrew comes from a diverse background in public policy, non-profits focused on international poverty, marketing, and consulting. He has long held a passion for promoting entrepreneurial solutions to poverty. He lives with his wife and two children in Grand Rapids, MI.

Not Tragically Colored | by Ismael Hernandez

Not Tragically Colored Ismael Hernandez

Years ago, I found myself in the midst of a gathering at a home of a Jamaican parishioner. The Event was only a few years after I arrived to America from my native Puerto Rico. A narrow family room and the waning daylight made the atmosphere intimate and about ten of us, mostly black Caribbean and African Americans, chat while waiting for the feast of good Jamaican cuisine.

As the night progressed, everyone was having a good time until, and seemingly out of nowhere, an argumentative man began a provocative monologue on race. A back-and-forth argument ensued with several people. The man insisted, “We are all black—that is our identity, and nothing supersedes that reality,” he declared.

The atmosphere changed and most people, apparently knowing that the man was often abrasive, only gave faint assent by nodding while trying to change the subject. He was one of those self-proclaimed “experts” on race whose ideas seemed more like ex-cathedra definitions you had to accept without doubt. The Jamaican host was the only one engaging him in a pointless battle of wills. Nefarious triangulation was inevitable and you could sense that no one there wanted to be pulled into the fray. Being the new kid on the block and with only a broken English capacity, I was even more vulnerable. You guessed it, I became prey. “You are wrong,” he told the Jamaican lady. “And this brother here knows it. He knows he is black.” I felt the penetrating gaze of all eyes awaiting my reply. Taken off guard, I awkwardly blurted, “Yes, I am black.” The sad puppy look on my face soon found the Jamaican lady’s countenance, as if imploring, “Please, do not take away my plate!” Proud of his victory, the man ended his diatribes, to everyone’s relief, except mine.

Driving home, I was upset. The incident felt like an intellectual assault perpetrated by a bully and I let him get away with it.  I thought how it embodied the received wisdom on black identity, filled with truisms, assumptions, and whimsical lines of demarcation. Even more importantly, I thought about how my intrinsic worth as a person faded behind a veneer of pretense about race in America. Even those who obliquely assented to the grand proclamation of blackness gave no real clue of what they really thought. They went with the flow, abiding by the authoritarian demarcation of authenticity they were expected never to cross. The shallow allure of race grabbed them and betrayed me and I was upset.

My book, Not Tragically Colored, is like starting that conversation again to rescue human dignity from the expansive, and yet shallow, sea of color. Making race the principle source of identity empowers those who offer the crudest and most simplistic explanations for the black experience and alienates all from realizing that we are unique and unrepeatable. Race is presented to us today as the great boundary, the atomistic identifier that places limits on our identity, rather than as one aspect of our deeper reality as persons made in the very image of God. We are being swallowed by race, we cannot breadth without it. From the ideology behind the slogan that race matters we have come to the inevitable end of that path, race is all that matters.

The old racialist orthodoxies propose only two alternatives, either blacks are inferior or, racism explains it all. From exclusion because of race we have moved to inclusion because of race while we miss the person in front of us. Racialism, the inordinate attention to and the erroneous placement of race within the understanding of the self, has become the great evil of our time.

Not Tragically Colored reminds us that men choose, not races. Human dignity resides in our being intelligent and free beings capable of determining our lives by our choices. “Action reveals the person,” wrote Karol Wojtyla. Our challenge is to assume with courage the difficult task of being persons. The very concept of race is no longer helpful, as it has taken over human identity and becoming a place to hide. We must transcend the boundaries of the label and cross the transcendent threshold of what philosopher Gabriel Marcel calls an “inner urgent need” to be fully human. That job is not transferable to entities, labels, or groups. The human person, not the racial group, has the task of participating in his own development and growth. Race consciousness and the priority of racial identity lure us into abdicating the responsibility of personhood, the responsibility of liberty.

I know the temptation well, because I succumbed to it on that long gone day at a pleasant gathering. The call is to affirm our individuality and our capacity to choose our path in life in spite of social pressures to conform. The task is to be free.

Not Tragically Colored Ismael Hernandez

Ismael Hernandez is the Executive Director of the Freedom & Virtue Institute, a faith-based non-profit, working with churches and schools, aimed at teaching those in need to become self-sufficient. Ismael can be contacted at








Human Dignity (fm.) | by Esther Moody

I, like every woman in this era, stand on the shoulders of my mother, my grandmother, and her mother before. I could never adequately communicate how grateful I am for their labor in our feminine respects.  But, somewhere in this great Feminist Movement, the roles of women in society became oddly siloed. How did it happen that women cannot be mothers and wives and good business people?

Like many women, I have several books on the topic. The metaphors vary, from authors speaking of what “hats” one wears, what “box” we function in, even to what “buckets” we allocate and divide a certain percentage of our capacity.

None of this is news. I have nothing new to say on the topic.

At least that’s what I thought.

Until I took this shot while traveling recently.


I captured this moment while I myself was wearing my baby. And I responded, I responded to my own image, my own art.

I know this story.

I live this dialogue every day. I seek to balance this struggle every night as I lay in bed reflecting on the bitter-sweet season of mothering young kids. As I replay the sweet moments, the teaching moments, the learning moments, the moments I missed in my haze of busy-ness, I plead for grace and a new understanding of my greatness for the next day. Lord Jesus, please.

It wasn’t something I understood to be missing from my own life, until I perceived it in this woman’s life. Dignity in mothering and laboring. I long for what she has in this moment. A simplified life of provision and care-taking. Something that seems so inherent to a small, central american village population, but for which I am misunderstood here at home; a calling beyond my family that is somehow just as equally for my family.

Look at this image again. She carries what must be a 3-year-old who naps on her back while she stands with her goods in the market. Her strength is only equal to the weight she carries. She stands with her peers, with her child on her back. She stands with, not behind, not just out of the way. She is not relegated to second class citizen because her child might be loud. She is not written off and marginalized as “just a mom.” Her strength is respected and actualized by her peers.

If a woman’s dignity is rooted in her creation in the image and likeness of God, then as I carry my babies, as I labor for the good of my family, just as the Proverbs 31 woman did; through this, I somehow portray the image and likeness of God. What a beautiful image, both fervent and compassionate, equally strong and supple, life-giving, absolutely revelatory. Indeed, not only is her own dignity affirmed, but her child’s dignity is assumed because of it.

Her child is given space within the family unit, and society as a whole, to be not a deterrent to provision, but a welcome addition to a way of life that supports concurrent roles. How would these women respond to these western ideas of hats and buckets? These women are given the space in their community to work for the good of their family.  And, the community doesn’t look down of them when they bring their family into the process.

The plurality of our God is astonishing. He has indeed created us in His image, He is everything to everyone. He is the Alpha and the Omega, He is Jehova Rapha, He is Jehova Jireh, He is Jehova Tsidkenu, our healer, our provider, our righteousness. Through His sanctification we are healers, we are providers.

In this image I see the plurality of our God and the astonishing infusion of his righteousness into Motherhood. How righteous is it to provide for your family, while we simultaneously care for them?! Through the Lord’s redemption of our work and dignity as Mothers and women, we may affirm our children’s dignity and work for the good of our family at the same time.


Esther Moody is the founder and principal of CreateFlourish, a design and branding firm, based in Grand Rapids, MI.  After receiving her B.A. at the University of Tennessee, she has lived and worked in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, GA and western Michigan.  She balances all of this with her role as a stay-at-home mom, which is why her husband refers to her as a “momtrepreneur.”  She resides in Ada, Michigan, along with her husband, Jonathan, 4 year old son, David, and 1 year old daughter, Ruby.