Nothing happens in isolation in our society today. Chain reactions are everyday occurrences and sometimes the effects are bigger than we could imagine. Science views everything as a system. All is interconnected. The body is a system made up of smaller systems: digestive, respiratory, nervous. The earth has its system and exists within the larger solar system, large systems and small, all is interconnected and not just in science but in society as well.
This applies too in working with the poor and marginalised. While addressing individual problems is to be commended, we are often faced with the “give a man a fish, and feed him for a day” dilemma. We temporarily address the symptoms without dealing with the underlying causes. But how to fix it? How to fix the system? Surely this is too big a problem to even contemplate?
The problem can be a never-ending cycle. If for example I don’t have a job, I don’t earn money. If I don’t earn money, I can’t buy food for my family. If my son doesn’t have sufficient food, he suffers malnutrition. If he suffers malnutrition, he can’t study well. If he can’t study well, he won’t graduate from school. If he doesn’t graduate from school, he may not get a job. If he doesn’t have a job, he doesn’t earn money. So, the cycle begins again.
Systemic change is a new idea, yet it reflects many of St. Vincent de Paul’s teachings. That our work should be to minister to the poor spiritually and corporally, that our love be both affective and effective that we proclaim the Good News by word and work. It is not enough to talk the talk, we as the inheritors of the Vincentian charism must show Jesus’ love for the poor in word and deed.