December 7, 2010

“The more is given the less the people will work for themselves,
and the less they work the more their poverty will increase.”  Leo Tolstoi

I have this wrestle before God and the Angels every year at this time.  To give or not to give is not really the question.  But it is what I should give, how I should give it, and will the net result be greater freedom and happinessfor the recipients?  You see, I am all about freedom and the pursuit of happiness.  I am a giving woman.  My profession requires an unusual measure of charity (the pure love of Christ, not alms) and patience.  My greatest pleasures come from giving to others what they cannot obtain for themselves.  But  because that is my creed, to do only for others (my students, for example) what they cannot do for themselves, I really don’t have to give or do much at all for others.  How can that be?  Because most people, if given the tools, opportunity and incentive, can usually become self-sufficient.   As a teacher my most significant contribution is time.  I take the time to teach my students how to read, write, perform practical math functions and become adept with their personal care and safety.  But, in the end, if I give well, and wisely, I don’t have to give much at all. Capish?

There are dozens of local organizations that provide food, shelter and toys to families during the month of December.  I don’t fault those which are stop-gap emergency providers for families out of work, or stricken by illness, displacement, or natural or personal disaster.  The poor are always among us.  The number of truly struggling families has increased with the current, grinding recession.   But even though the poor will always be among us, the poor should not be a static population of perpetually dependent families and individuals.  Most people have the capacity to cycle out of a poverty state.  A motivated employee will find the motivated employer and even a languishing economy produces.

There are school-based programs that have allowed parents to abdicate the basic responsibility of nourishing their children.  Most school districts offer breakfast and lunch.  Many offer dinner, summertime lunch programs and weekend meals.  Most districts will try to increase the numbers of kids on free and reduced lunch because it opens the door to Federal “Title” funds.  Nutrition departments will actually send applications for free lunch to people who have been eligible in the past, even if the family has no present need.  The bloated nanny-state Feds have created a reciprocal loop of perpetual poverty.  You will be pressured to stay “poor” because your self-sufficiency decreases the money pot.  Painfully ironic I think.

There is a program in my town which provides food for children to take home on Friday so, the theory goes, they will not go hungry before they get their next meal at school.  The children are not at fault.  Many of them are hungry and lack for the basic human needs.  But the root causes of their hunger, parental neglect, drug abuse, apathy, will not be cured by a program that further enables these folks to ignore the needs of their children.  Some organization, some school, some church, some government program will feed the kids, so why should they spend their money or time on something so trivial and constant as nourishment.  These programs are nearly always open to abuse.  There is no screening required, just an application submitted by the parents stating that there is a need for someone else to provide food for their kids.

One of the key principles of behavior management is to not reinforce bad behavior.  But each year at Christmastime countless charities reinforce the very bad, unlawful behavior of illegal aliens by practicing an “ethos” of non-discrimination.  Of course no one wants to see any child suffer without the goodies that Chris Kringle plops under the tree.  But there are entire communities of illegal alien families who receive charitable goods and services from churches, schools and other organizations far above and beyond the consideration given to  needy citizens.  The insistence that illegal alien families are just as deserving as everyone else is truly stunning to me.  These are people who have chosen a lifestyle of lawlessness partially because they are not held accountable for their crimes.  They openly defy the laws of this country in which they find such generous succor. And illegals further tax the social welfare programs that are stretched beyond capacity by citizen recepients.  The insidious effect of the chronic reinforcement of naughty, illegal behavior is to perpetuate, and even celebrate, one of the most destructive social and economic problems faced by America in this century.   This is one of the worst examples of feel-goodism run amok.

The spectre of a toyless Christmas for the unfortunate kiddies among us drives the same instinct that feeds the kiddies for the rest of the year.  Nearly everyone has a “toy drive” , a “toy run” or scads of “angel trees” stationed strategically around the burgs.  The bell-ringers are out in force and numberless churches and individuals fill in the blanks to ensure that no child is left bereft.  I am no Scrooge, except maybe after he has his epiphany, and I love the delight of innocents as they open their Christmas booty.  But along with removing the pressure from parents to sufficiently pull themselves together and function so they can feed their kiddos, the exorbitant give-away of toys also absolves the responsible parties from their responsibility to act like mommies and daddies.  There are families for whom the trappings and largess of Christmas is always provided by someone else.  The same families come back year after year, with the same level of desperation, never having a reason to solve their own employment or educational problems.  They are the Christmas dependents, stuck, not  unlike little children, in the fantasy that some fat, benevolent, magical being will always provide, so they can suck their thumbs and dream of sugar plums.

The old-fashioned notion that the need to accept charity is a cause for shame is long gone.  Even the good ole’ “he’s too proud to take a handout” has gone the way of chivalry and hand-written letters.  There is little or no stigma associated with allowing someone else’s hands, substance and money to support you and your wee ones.  It is often an indication of street savvy and “working the system” to use handouts and government welfare so that one’s earnings can go for the good stuff in life; cars, clothes, eating-out, and big, plasma-screen TVs.  It’s not unusual to see the parental units of a student on free or reduced lunch driving something big, shiny and tricked-out into the drop-off  loop.

So this is the essence of that burning Christmas question; do I want to sacrifice the spiritual and temporal efficacy of people for a charitable handout?  After all,  giving feels good.  It feels really good to gobs of people.  Entire industries are built on the human instinct to support the needy.   But who benefits more from the giving?  Are givers often burdened by the guilt of  great prosperity and material wealth?  Does giving ease the guilt? And this is worth the asking; do the getters suffer on some level, being lured into a lifestyle of comfort and abundance without having to exert themselves?  There is a spiritual cost to those who never know the satisfaction of self-reliance or of passing the tests that adversity presents.  Does the chronic  charitable handout energize or enervate?  Are those perennially lifted by the hands and resources of others motivated to overcome personal paucity, or are the perquisites of poverty too great to give up for the strain of the daily grind?  Can there truly be freedom where there is no independence?

I am not a government agency so I have the luxury of looking into the eyes and circumstances of those to whom I give.  I will give to those who have the sorrow of need in their hearts and the light of gratitude in their eyes.  I will give to those committed to make themselves the givers, not the takers, by this time next year.  I will give to those who, after all they can do, are still unable to fill the voids in their larders or closets or pockets.  But the best gifts of all that I will give will be words of praise, accolades, and the esteem of compliments that they have what it takes to make it on their own.  They, too, deserve the satisfaction of giving what cannot be accessed by the drooping hands of the authentic poor.  And if I can offer a little self-efficacy to place in one stocking  to help make one person, one family, a little more free and less dependent upon anyone other than The Lord, Himself, then I can give and know that I have done so wisely.  The poor will always be among us.  Next year will surely reveal a different economic picture and new feet will cross my path.  And so my wrestle before God and all the Angels will occur yet again.

Liberals distort Christian teachings to aid illegals

Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Charity: Mendel Kalmenson

Handouts give minimum wage earner income greater than his professional peers

Be cautious when giving, corruption abounds

How to avoid Christmas charity scams

C.S. Lewis defends Sarah Palin and speaks on the patronizing quality of some “charitable” givers.

Man fakes Christmas burglary to get donations

If you want to enrich people, give a little gratitude/ Mona Charen NRO

250 x 250 Food & Food Prep

  1. Detra

    Enjoyed your article and can identify. I always give to the salvation army and usually help with a family at church at Christmas, but also know it is probably more beneficial to me then anyone. When I am able to give, I get that old fashioned love thy neighbor good feeling. But I totally agree, we have a system that doesn’t give a hand up, it gives a hand out to the same ones over and over. I wasn’t aware of how much food is being given out. Wow, our system is going to go bust and we will all be starving!
    I will tell you a situation I had when my two girls were growing up. For several years we took in troubled teens. I usually had two or three living with us at one time. Most of these kids got very little or even nothing from the real families, but of course I always gave them things. Usually a sweater and a pair of jeans, some socks and a fun thing, like a game, favorite movie, book or cd. I have never been a go all out and over indulge, even my own children. But the thing that was frustrating for me was the over kill…There were always those who donated gifts and cash to the company I was contracted with and they got some pretty nice things. Boom boxes, roller blades, walkmans etc. I was usually even given some cash to buy something nice and I had enough to buy skate boards, nintindo set ups, etc. At this point, they are already coming out of the deal better then my kids, but many times some group would sponsor an Angel Tree or something and those same foster kids would get more goodies from even another source. One year, we had two boys aged 11 and 12…they had probably 25 packages under the tree, my girls had maybe 5 or 6…and most of it needs, like pants or tennis shoes. It was unfair and there was no way I could even afford to keep up for my own kids. That year my mother was with us for Christmas, and after all the gift unwrapping, she handed each boy a 20.00 bill, and one of the boys looked at her and said, “Is that all you’re gonna give me?” I have to tell you, I was pissed. Of course we had a little lesson in gratitude and the proper way to accept a gift later, but it did little to ease the growing resentment I had towards a system that was creating these selfish little monsters! (I also explained to my mother that giving them anything, with out clearing it with me first was a big no no)
    Unfortunately, these programs are providing Christmases above what the average working parent can even afford. So what’s the message to Suzie and Bobby, let alone a parent that is being nothing by a slacker?
    We are so afraid, that these kids won’t have as much as the next. But so what? Maybe, those kids that go without, will have a desire to do better for their own children. Isn’t that what our parents wanted for us, something better then they had? Sounds like a positive thing to me!

    • Detra, so you can see why I have this wrestle. The truly worthy and needy should be given the means to get through the season with their well-being, traditions and dignity in tact. These last few years have been hard on a lot of families. But there is a creeping attitude of dependence among some families. Often it is part of the generational poverty that government welfare tends to create. I would gladly sacrifice all the stuff of Christmas to build up the faith, hope and self-efficacy of my brothers and sisters. Food, shelter and clothing are necessities but when the toys become something to be tallied rather than cherished, there is a problem. Thanks!

  2. Detra

    So true, it breaks my heart for one child to got hungry and totally with nothing at Christmas. But I think of the stories on old fashioned Christmases where a small child cherished an orange or a doll made out of a flour sack with only a drawn on face. They were so excited and content. Christmas has really become a crazy, greedy, spending frenzy. All about Santa and nothing about the true meaning. I think our donations to the LDS church is wonderful, because the Bishops know which families are really in need and there in never over buying. If each church tended to the needs of their flock, then we wouldn’t need the government. But then the slackers (and I don’t mean the down on their luck) would not be able to keep leeching.
    We had lean lean years over the past four years in our home. With the economy and my hubby being self employed in a business that depended on building, it was tough. But our kids were fed and they all got at least two gifts. An article of clothing and one “want” that was small. And guess what, they survived! The only down side, our 14 now thinks because we have steady income, we are rich and his orders for this year has been a little hefty. But he will find out…he still isn’t going to get the 300.00 game set up he wants! If we spend that much, it will be on something for the whole family.

  3. Michelle Hansen

    I, too believe it is beneficial to give to the poor, but discernment is needed when trying to be good stewards of what we have. Yes, there is a genuine need by many children whose parents are in jail, in rehab, or just checked out of life. Our hearts break for these abandoned innocents as other kids around them have so much. But I agree with you that many children are already learning an attitude of entitlement from their parents that creates greedy, self-focused future adults who will never feel grateful for anything. These children will never know the excitement and sense of accomplishment in having worked hard for a thing unless we give them chances to learn it. As educators and employers, as mentors and leaders in our communities we should look for ways to provide opportunities to work for self-fulfillment. It is easy to just provide the answers, to just hand out things to them; to just write a check. But we cannot afford to take the easy road–for our sakes or for theirs. Doing what is Right is hard work, so let’s all get to it.

  4. It is a cop out to think that easing another’s discomfort helps them. Some people are under the impression that God and society exist to keep them comfortable and entertained.

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