I’m guessing there are a number of reasons. And being altruistic is often not at the top of the list.
I entitled this why do ‘we’… But I really wanted to look at myself.
I struggle to walk past people begging on the street. I feel I must give something. My head and heart collide at that point. My heart says that I have no idea of the road traveled for the person with their hand out. What personal tragedies of their own making or simply bad luck had them wake up on the morning our paths crossed. My head however suggets( loudly) that it was probably all their own fault and by giving I’m adding to the problem. I think my heart usually wins. I hope it does. Perhaps there is a little of the ‘there but by the grace of God go I’ thinking?
Whatever the battle that rages within, the harsh reality is, that the person I am looking at, and who is asking, nay begging, for help probably really needs the help I am in a position to give.
And now comes the reality. I really am in a position to give. Yet most times I do not give what I could give. Who am I kidding when I give rarely enough to even buy a coffee?. I cannot remember giving someone on the street more than five dollars.
So I try to salve the battered conscience by signing up and give ‘a dollar a day’ to this group or that. Except the conscience is not salved. Not at all.
On a Sunday the church plate comes by, and again I do not give what I could, but now the word ‘should’ slides in on the side. I know all the teaching about tithing, give the first 10% but I do not. I have ‘youtubed’ the preachers who are ‘oh so good’ at tugging at the heart strings… Actually, make that ‘yanking at the purse strings’ and I smugly think that I will not be sucked into that.
And this is not good either. I am ok with saying no to the ‘big charities’. I work for one for goodness sake. I know the good work that gets done and can only be done because ordinary people give. Yet this causes me grief. I hear the hypocrisy of it all. I try to blame the graphs that show only 37% gets to the proposed recipient… and I tut tut away, begrudging the charity research funds, decent salaries for their heroes. I want their CEO to drive a beat up Holden. Yet I want to drive a nice car. This is double standard stuff.
So why is it then, that a beggar on the street can make me stop, and even go back and give?. Please let it not be because I do not have to give them much. I would not like that about me if that were the case. I desperately want to believe that there is some ‘good’ in me. Yet I am not sure about my motivation.
I am getting used to seeing begging on the streets of NZ. This is new. For years I equated begging with ‘poor’ countries. Then I saw them in Paris, London and Toronto. In Brazil I saw children begging. That was difficult. Very difficult, and I simply did not know what to do. We were with a missionary who told us not to give!. She said we were being fooled. These children were sent out by their parents to beg. It takes a while to process that. In Toronto it seemed to be old men, in London younger people. In NZ it frightens me to think it could be someone I know.
I want to give, but how much? And how?. Do you must nonchalantly throw the money into the hat?. Did you make eye contact?. Not sure of there is a book that explains that. I wanted to stop and ask what had happened?, how had life’s cards fallen to see them on the street corner with their hand out?
Then some say ‘may God bless you’ when they receive my gift. Bless me?… Lord I want you to bless them. Now, perhaps they sure just saying it but nevertheless it jars when I hear it. Or is that my conscience poking me rather than simply a ‘jar’?.
I never thought this would happen in NZ. We have a great social welfare system, state housing, we are a country that cares yet now we have beggars.
Why am I thinking about this?. News released recently in NZ says that we are big givers compared to other countries. We punch above our ‘giving’ weight. Sadly I am bantam weight, and barely that. Recent reports also suggest we have a great standard of living. We seem to be in the top ten of everything good. Yet we now have beggars on the streets of our big cities and we have kiwi charities well organised to look after those who need ‘shelter’ here in ‘God’s Own’.
Recently the radio group I work at held an appeal ( even the name causes me to shudder) to find people to support a child. Most of us have heard of Compassion, the noun as well as the adjective. Over 150 amazing people called and pledged close to $100,000 on the day. Yet I did not enjoy the day at all. There were statistics being thrown around like confetti . 22,000 children die every day. Excuse me?. How many?. The shattering reality is that in the time it has taken you to read this, four children have died. Sobering. Upsetting. Confusing and unbelievably sad.
I am on a diet at the moment. Because I am fat. I was going to write overweight’ because it sounded better. But the hard truth is that I live in a culture where regularly we have to clear out the fridge of food that we simply just did not get round to eating and where seconds has nothing to do with boxing.
There is something seriously wrong here and I am part of the problem. I see it everyday around my middle.
I remember an expression that I learnt somewhere along the way. ‘Save some, spend some and give some to God’. I can remember teaching my daughter that expression yet I do not practice it to any great extent myself.
And then I read ‘it is better to give than receive’. Why then do I not feel that way?.
Please may I learn to give because as a human being I have a responsibility to another. May I not judge, may I help from a position of love and care. May I know what is right and just ‘do it’