Sitcoms rarely address the effectiveness of charity and international aid. However, Michael Scott and Andy Bernard exposited these deep issues on a recent episode of The Office. Aiming to impress their friends and colleagues, the winsome duo joined a busload of aspiring youngsters bound for Mexico on a three month mission trip.
Andy: Save me an aisle seat, Michael, I'm coming. I will not stand idly by while these Mexican villagers are sick.
Trip Leader: We are actually building a school.
Andy: Whatever. I won't stand for it.
Michael: How long till we get to Mexico?
Andy: Well, two days minus how long we've been on the road. 45 minutes? So, like two days basically. Maybe more.
Michael: What are we building down there again? Like a hospital? A school for Mexicans? What?
Andy: I don't know. I thought it was like a gymnasium.
Michael: Why aren't they building it for themselves?
Andy: They don't know how.
Michael: Do we know how? I don't know how.
The episode closes with the comedic tandem abandoning their charitable foray, convicted that their talents would be better served selling paper to small business owners in Scranton. Channeling their inner Robert Lupton (and my other favorites, Brian Fikkert, Dambisa Moyo and Bill Easterly), Scott and Bernard touch on some deep issues in their short monologue:
Is our charity needed? Are we displacing someone locally who could do the job? Do we actually have the skills and capacity to serve well? Is our helping really helping?...an unlikely source prompts big questions.