Saturday, November 1, 2008

New Articulation Leads To Battle Grip Charity

One point of difference between my wife and I has been our experiences with poverty, child jobs, panhandling and social acceptance. I grew up Eisenhower Republican - for awhile when I was growing up, my family didn't have much money, but we got the bills paid. I had an allowance, but didn't need or care about money until I started throwing newspapers at 12. My folks, strong Methodist Christians, firmly believed that the only charity was the sort that encouraged others to work their fair share. Street corner panhandlers were bums and drug addicts, even the veterans who still heard bombs and screams in the night. Single mothers were to be pitied and their children helped, but the mothers made their choices, and should expect to pay for them. Until I was throwing papers, I never went door-to-door unless it was UNICEF or a school or scout fundraiser.

My wife grew up poor. Her mother has been a habitual drug user until the last 10 years. She raised her 2 children with a succession of boyfriends whom were long-term, but whom also had drug dependencies. M's grandmother raised her grandchildren as much as her daughter did, and her grandmother had also raised her family as single-parent in the 1950's. M and her brother often sold candy and other things both for fundraisers but also just for money which to buy clothes and school supplies. My wife and her family never begged, but there were many nights where they slept in friend's homes and their extended family helped pay the immediate overdue bills.

So it's a bit of an issue between us when door-to-door sales people come around or when we see people camped out at the interstate exits. M knows something of this day-to-day existence and gives them a few bucks; I've always been taught that those people will blow it on booze or other poor choices and will pass them by. My own IRL nature is also one not to call attention to myself or others, and the whole nature of the panhandling transaction is uncomfortable to both parties, although my discomfort cannot be anything measurable to the panhandler's. Luckily, it's not an argument thing with us, just one thing that I think my wife insists on while I simply obey her wishes because She's Got Reason.

What got me here is this link from Athenae at First-Draft, Getting Taken. And there it is - why and what is important about direct charity. "You do the job in front of you." An answer my wife, whom preaches the Bible as a career to hundreds every week, was never able to get across to me. "You do the job in front of you." You don't scream at the dirty slacker to get a job, or tell the pregnant women paying with food stamps to quit spreading her legs. You don't comfort yourself that your contributions to the Sunday offering plate going to relief and assistance organizations are enough and the only right thing to do. You buy what you can from the kid selling overpriced magazine subscriptions, because even though he sees less than 5% of the money you hand over and the company is taking advantage of everyone, it's money he's working hard for and money he may desperately need.

The original threads with thousands of responses is at Dooce's Place.


iamcoyote said...

I like that, idio. "Do the job in front of you." Good philosophy to have. My son who's 29 soon (whoa!) says that even altruism is selfish because you get a good feeling from it, and you want to feel more of it. I suppose in a way it's kinda true, with the added bonus that you make someone else feel good, too. To me, taking care of the least of us is part of the social contract, and my responsibility, even if it does make me feel good to help others.

Anjha said...

I agree Coyote, I have always said the same thing...there is absolutely no such thing as absolute altruism. The benefit of giving freely far outweighs the gift itself.

Idio, your family situation sounds much like mine. My husband is always looking for the scam and thinks that everyone is a fraud and a cheat. I have to explain to him, repeatedly, that it does not matter what the receiver does with the gift, it only matters what the giver does. That once I give something it is none of my fucking business what the person does. If I think that it is then I have given with strings attached. That does not benefit either of us.

Unfortunately husbands suspicious nature has rubbed off on me more than I care to admit after two decades of exposure.

Often - more like always - we do not have anything to give anyone. I always think that the people selling the magazines are scam artists and I never buy unless I have cash (checks and credit cards can lead to bigger theft than the dollar amount that I think that I am giving.) And, I rarely have any cash laying around that I can purchase magazines or candy with.

When I do, I give it knowing that I may never see a magazine or that the person selling might use it for something that I do not approve of, but I give it knowing that it is none of my fucking business what they do.

I come from a long line of thieves and junkies and poor people. I know that world extremely well. I also come from many years of recovery and dealing with thieving and whoring and junkie recovery; everyone deserves second and third and fourth chances and so on. But for the grace of [god] the Universe, there go I.

I know that saying well and attempt to live that way, but I do not always succeed in empathy or in giving. I do believe that whatever I give comes back to me tenfold. I believe in pay it forward and I believe in the innate goodness of all people (yes, even those right wing fucks that I cannot stand.)

I believe that these freaks at the Palin rallies - the ones who yell the hatred - are probably the same people, who, if I were in their church and supported John McCain and needed someone to come over to my home and cook a meal or help me vacuum...they would do it. Unfortunatly they just cannot see beyone their blindness to realize that we are all the same.

I know that our country is fucked and I know that we are split and divided, but I cannot help but dream that somewhere in the center of Obama's rhetoric, where he talks about healing the wounds and bringing us together and the response to these statements...the overwhelming positive response - I cannot help but think that there is hope that we will pull together and that we will stop this insanity of pitting groups and classes and races against each other. I hope this because i know with the danger that we are all in financially, with the future that awaits us - we will need to feed our neighbors and house our friends. It is just the way that it is.

Maybe not Hoover[Bush]villes, but close.

Seven of Six said...

Only about 5 houses on our block giving out candy last night. Left our light on until 9PM for the last minute trick or treaters.

A young woman comes up with her young son, she was thankful that our light was on. She came off a second shift and had promised her son a trip "trick or treating" so she was a bit late. The little boy was dressed up in an old tattered spiderman costume, says, "Trick or Treat", opens his empty bag... I melt... remembering all the trips taking my son on Halloween while my wife worked 2nd shift. Realizing we might be one of the few houses left for candy... I dumped the rest of our candy in his bag. The woman looked at me with a huge thank you smile.

I'm fortunate... the Disabled Veteran getting full benefits and Social Security Disability. I have no problem giving after my bills are paid and family is taken care of.

Now is a tough time for our family, Dad is getting sicker and I'm helping my Mom more and more. Her hip is getting better (thank God she does not have severe Osteoporosis) but she can't lift him or bathe him. Luckily I've only had to do the set up (paperwork and phone calls) for volunteers and medical professionals to come in and assist. Plus the shopping, bill paying, forcing the old fart to drink water and juice.

...even the veterans who still heard bombs and screams in the night.

Yeah, Dad still has night terrors... however, I'm getting better. Trickle down PTSD is a bitch.

Obama has a plan that will let me work or volunteer, put something back in the system that has helped me so much for the last 5 years. Without my income taking such a large hit. I'm anxious for a better plan than one that just penalizes your disabled status.

I'm always giving the homeless man on the freeway exits and entrances bucks, especially if they are close to fast food place. You should see the smiles when a ten dollar bill is given to them... it's like they hit the lottery.