Friday, January 29, 2010

Charity Begins At Home

Part of our current problem in addressing the healthcare legislation is that Americans are a generous people. We like to help each other. We all recognize that sometimes unexpected circumstances can hit the best of us with a mountain of debt and no obvious way out. We want to live by the golden rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” – because, by and large, we believe that if we help someone else today, someone else will be better able to help us tomorrow. That is an admirable thing. Many times it is the truth as well.(That whole pay it forward deal plays very well into the American ethos.) The problem comes when we try to apply that ethos through the government rather than as individuals and private organizations. Individuals and some private organizations have a Christian mandate to help people and provide charity. Governments have a mandate to govern.
When the government gives charity, it creates no reciprocal obligation in the heart of those who receive that charity. It fosters an attitude that, not only is one a total failure at life who must be grudgingly rescued by his or her betters, but that one is entitled, by the inability to succeed at life, to that charity and need not pay it forward by word or deed. However, if your neighbor or church steps up and pays your mortgage for a hard month, or buys groceries or Christmas presents for a family that can’t afford them, that creates a thankful heart(usually) and a reciprocal obligation to give back to that neighbor or community group in some way.
Perhaps the fact that there is no way to give back to the government is the culprit. Instead of a feeling of thankfulness, the recipient is left with a sense of frustration and failure. With a neighbor or a neighborhood church, there are opportunities to help and return the favor. Taking on supervision of the Sunday school classes, shoveling the helpful neighbor’s walk in the winter or even sharing some fresh baking or inviting them to dinner. This creates a feeling of fulfillment and self sufficiency. It gives the recipient of that charity the opportunity to demonstrate to that church or neighbor that they are someone who was worthy of such charity. That they understand the obligations of a community to care for each other.
This is one of the reasons that government entitlements and charity are a failure and degrading to the overall character of the nation. How does government charity provide a picture of community support, self respect, cheerful giving and true charity when our children see their parents grumbling over the taxes that are taken from us to provide such charity? What message does it send when they see the recipients of government charity grumbling at how it should be better or how it didn’t really meet their needs? What message does it send to the children who are supported by such largesse? How does that encourage our children to continue our tradition of generosity? When our children see that those who are providing this charity (the taxpayers) are made the poorer by it and involuntarily at that.
Voluntary charity is a blessing for both the provider and the recipient. Involuntary charity is not charity, it is wealth redistribution. We the People need to recognize that, while government may be a fine vessel for the governing of a people, it is not a fit vessel for works of charity.
Belanne Pibal is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer.

3 comments:

DR said...

Outstanding post; I could not have said it better. It is nice to be friends with someone so smart, it makes me feel a little smarter;-)

Call Me Mom said...

Thank you DR.
I credit anything good that gets posted to God and anything awful to myself. I enjoy your writing too.

Redspect said...

"If you haven't any charity in your heart you have the worst kind of heart trouble" to cure it Help people, let's unite for one good cause, be a volunteer"save live"!
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