I have always struggled with the idea of ‘the deserving poor’ a term and an attitude I do not like, but what can we give, and what do we deserve.
Ever had the hand stretched out to you ’50p for a cuppa tea’ or seen the down and outs on the tube/subway or in your city or town. Many people do give but many try to control their giving by offering to buy food or a bed for the night or exert some other control because they are afraid their money will go for drugs or alcohol.
Its possible we might give because it makes us feel better, I have been known to drop a fiver into the lap of a homeless person begging, but is that for them or for me??
Real charitable giving might to be to place a five pound note or a five dollar note in the gutter in random places, so you never know who gets it or what they do with it. If you have ever found ‘free’ money then you will know what joy this brings and how it lacks the strings of other money given or earned.
Of course this kind of charity does not help the foundation of large bodies like Oxfam or Amnesty, it is not organised charitable or social welfare but it has a point.
Why do we give, who does it really benefit, why do we want our poor, our homeless, and marginalised to be deserving?
Charles Dickens was a master at explaining this, read a Christmas Carol or see its more modern version ‘a Muppet Christmas Carol’ to see this idea of charitable giving played out: “Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.”
I always think of Jesus with the tax gatherers and prostitutes and his outraged followers question why he spent time with these undeserving types, and his response was that these were the very people he had come to help.
Perhaps next time you or I give could we could put aside the attachment to deserving or undeserving and just give something. How hard must it really be to stretch out your arm day after day and beg, yes beg for help and find that help not forthcoming. How did we become so powerless, so hardened that we walk by every day on the other side. Our corporations and our businesses could do more to encourage charitable work in their staff and give of their own largesse to local deserving community charities not just the big cheque on red nose day.
I find this also relates to another question, how deserving are we…ask yourself next time something wonderful happens to you and you can’t quite believe it, whether in your heart you think you deserve it, maybe inwardly you don’t believe anyone should help you, that good things could happen to you…well think again, we weren’t put here to suffer, thats a distorted choice we make, we were put here in my opinion to live a good life, to enjoy, to love, to help each other…without judgement.
As Kurtz says in the film ‘Apocalypse Now’ it is judgement that defeats us, our judgement of others and ultimately our judgement of ourselves….to truly give is an important human action, as is to walk by on the other side. charitable giving is not always the answer but its a start for us all.