Dan Allen was a crusading Catholic priest who fought for the poor in Tulsa for more than 30 years, beginning in the 1960s. In his uncompromising, controversial crusade, Father Allen changed institutions and the lives of both those who sought help and those who came to help. Dan named his crusade Neighbor for Neighbor. He intentionally set neighbor to helping neighbor in reciprocal encounters. His idea was that one day a person needs help, the next day that person is helping his benefactor or others in need. From that mutual service came self-respect that led to self-sufficiency.
The genius of Neighbor for Neighbor arose from the curious psyche of Dan Allen himself. Like those he sought to serve, Dan Allen was no stranger to anguish. “Give a damn!” shouted a banner on his office wall. He was never afraid of the unconventional, sometimes outrageously funny, scrap. He once staged a mock parade of homes for poverty housing. When thieves threatened Dan’s car-repair cooperative, he co-opted them into becoming business partners. A reporter who came to interview was interrupted when volunteers carted off Allen’s office sofa to give to a burned-out family; before the morning was over, the reporter found herself sacking Thanksgiving canned food for the poor. So it went, day by day, in Dan Allen’s world.
Father Allen died in 1995, but his legacy continues through service by the many lives he changed and their thirst for social justice.