Since a friend asked a question or two, I’m going to share them

I truly look forward to your responses

The long and the short of the questions boil down to this: what more are we as Americans expected to do when it comes to helping/saving all those in the world that need assistance? We already do so very much, and we have needs right here at home that go unmet. In particular, the question was asked in the context of Christian faith, in exploration of a longstanding bit of guidance…when in doubt, ask, “what would Jesus do?” Even more particularly, it was asked in regard to our moral and ethical obligation to the children, not necessarily the teens/gang members, etc. that may be among them, but the actual children (however you define that) who are arriving at our borders in grave need.

What more can we do? What more should we do? WWJD?

Since I’m sure my own post will reach those of differing faiths, and those who eschew faith for other noble metrics by which to guide a life, I would just ask each person who reads this to ask the WWJD question in terms that best suit them. When it comes to guidance for life, I’m pretty sure we all can fill in a blank with something that inspires us to grow our better natures.

What follows is my own response to the questions as they were put. If you see this post and indulge me the few minutes of your time to read it, I’ll even return the favor by putting the ask right here: do you have a favorite charity for which you can spare an additional $8.33 per month? If you already give and/or volunteer, that is most excellent, and on behalf of those you help, whomever they may be, THANK YOU, sincerely and truly, for all you do. Even then, is there another $8.33 you can spare each month? A few snacks at the store you can dispense with? A vice you can pare down a touch? A luxury that can be saved for just a little bit longer if the $8.33 puts a bite in it? I’m not recommending a particular charity or cause. I leave that to your discretion. But I would at least ask that if you are willing to do that, would you, on the honor system, pledge to do so in the comments, and maybe even recommend the charity of your choice? As well, and I don’t often ask this, would you share this post so that it stands a chance of generating as many honor-system pledges as possible. Nobody from here (meaning me, I’m it) will call. Nobody will send a bill. Just indicate whether you can spare that extra $8.33 per month. If you’ll do that, you’ll have my sincere gratitude.

That said, here was my response to the question my friend asked, very lightly edited.

Fine questions, all. I certainly can’t speak for Him, either, but whenever I’m in doubt, I always refer back to Matthew 25:35-36, 40.

35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’

40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

Maybe I’m letting my liberal side show here, but I don’t see where he put limits or qualifications in those words. My gut instinct absolutely agrees with you, that we have our own to take care of. Our own families, friends, communities. I also tend to think we’ve pretty much all, with precious few exceptions, become really spoiled with the bounty of our present age and take a great many luxuries as necessities and have perhaps confused what we’ve worked hard far as our right, and there’s absolutely something to that.

So I’ll just use myself as an example without trying to come across as holier than thou, or better, or on a high horse or anything. I’ve got more than my fair share of flaws, and that’s the point I hope you see. I work a thoroughly blue collar job deep in farm country, cleaning ag implements for sales and service. That includes cleaning barley dust (itchy beyond reason), rotting grain, loose crop debris, and all manner of manure (cow, pig, horse) off everything from small utility tractors to 8-wheeled 4×4 massive tractors that pull air drills, combines, sprayers, the works. I am incredibly fortunate that I make nearly double minimum wage for the work I do. It’s “skilled,” but nowhere near the level of skilled as the diesel mechanics in the shop. I live in a part of the country where cost of living is reasonable, which is a huge contrast from the city life I left behind in DC and New Orleans. Come payday I’ve got enough to cover the bills, put a dent in debt, and cook a week’s worth of food for two on the weekend (no kids, so I can’t speak to the expense of raising them). I’m extra fortunate that my employer covers all the health insurance.

As a result, I’ve got enough left to either save a bit or splurge on “necessities.” Snacks to go with and between meals. Overpriced beverages at the co-op during breaks (instead of always bringing my own from home, or in addition to). The computer I’m writing this on. A TV that 5-year old me would have died to have, and it’s only a 32″. And so on, and so on. I think most of us can relate on some level. I know I feel strapped from check to check, but honestly I’ve got enough and to spare if I cut some of the frills, and it wouldn’t even have to touch the rent or the groceries. Because I can cook at least fairly well (mock humility…I learned to cook in New Orleans, and on a tight budget I can still eat like a king, with the gut to show for it), there’s no end to the variety and quality of what I eat.

And I *know* in my heart I (can’t speak for anyone else) I could absolutely do more to help those in need. It’s still in my box of good intentions (and we know where roads paved with those lead), but I know I could/should be doing something with my extra time/money to care for the sick, feed the hungry, provide clothing, give water to the thirsty, visit with prisoners, and/or take in strangers…to wit, immigrants, people I don’t know,, and not a bit of that would count against what is truly needed by myself and “my own.” I just keep making my own excuses for the time being. Next week. Next month. After I’ve gotten my new Widget 2000. And what I hear from the folks who actually do volunteer their time and resources is that they’re not the poorer for it, but the richer. They know more people. Their safety net is greatly expanded. Their consciences are as clear as human conscience can ever be. Yet I remain lulled by my own consumerism, learned over 30+ years of gluing myself to the TV and feeling like what must be done always involves going to a store or a place with admission fees to do it.

I think the questions each of us can ask of ourselves (I’ll still leave should out of the question) is, “what can I truly part with? Do I *really* need that bag of Doritos? The extra watts worth of speakers in my truck? Another 10″ of TV? A $5 latte when I can buy a french press for $25 and make my own coffee right at my desk as long as there’s hot water available?

I’m not suggesting everybody needs to run out and save their own personal child, or take responsibility for an ill person not in the family, or actually visit a prison, etc., at least to the extent that it would actually be detrimental to family and self. But we can ask ourselves if there’s a favorite charity that exercises good stewardship of their funds, with low administrative overhead (so we’re not just giving hard earned dollars to support 5-star wine and dine donor meetings and 6-figure consultancy bills) that we can give to, even that extra $1, $5, or $10 a month? My own $10 means diddly squat, perhaps. Maybe it’ll feed a man for a day, or get her off the street for the night and that’s it. But, hypothetically, what if all 500 of my own blog followers saw me post (never happens) and each gave a measly $5 per month to one of those causes Jesus talked about? What difference would $5000 a month make to a non-profit hospice? Or a prison ministry? Or a meals on wheels program? Or a clean water fund for areas like the Dan River in North Carolina, tainted by Duke Energy. Or an immigration legal aid clinic?

What if every American (on average) donated $100 a year…less than $10/month? For me, that’s less than two packs of smokes. Together, that’s $30 billion between us all. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, $30 billion a year would eradicate hunger globally. Maybe that’s pie in the sky once we factor in corruption in the needy nations, but I think it gets the idea across. What could we, just as Americans, do with less than $10/month?

What would Jesus suggest?

For the record, I’m agnostic, but I have a profound respect for people of faith that use that faith to do good in the world. Whatever I do or don’t believe, I would be fool to look to the teachings of Jesus and ignore them when he pretty much just suggests we beget kindness instead of wickedness.

On that note, are there any charities you might recommend?

Image credit: Howard Lake @ flikr.com. Licensed under Creative Commons.

 

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7 thoughts on “Since a friend asked a question or two, I’m going to share them

  1. Reblogged this on Arlin Report and commented:
    Points well taken, I certainly waste enough on unnecessary items. I pledge to cut back, approach a homeless person each week with a donation to help with a meal. This is something I do, I prefer I approach them before they approach me, hopefully saving a little of their dignity as well. I can/will do this more often than I have. I am confident others will do something as well.

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    1. I’m an economist be degree and an engineer by trade after retiring I took up political philosophy trying to understand the purpose and form of government and that took many years of reading a good many of the classics in that field.

      I have no problem with private giving and in that sense I apologize for implying that. The issue is that re are limited and controlled in that endeavor by the government not our faith. When government policies allow an open border which it is (check out that subject on my blog) then we become overwhelmed. Its my opinion that those that desire power are using the Cloward Piven strategy (goggle it if you don’t know) to overwhelm us; then they will remake America into their vision of what we should be. Conspiracy theory I know but with many years of research behind me.

      I have created a data table going back to 1999 of all relevant economic and related data using the available government numbers as found on their websites. Since i am an economist I can sort though the numbers and make sense of long term trend and they are not good. I do realize that not all the borrowing is from China but they are the most egregious in how they have don’t it. The politicians know what is going on and the bottom line is we send them jobs and they loan us the dollar they accumulate.

      Obviously a man must survive first, but he must be weaned as quickly as possible from that support as there isn’t enough time or money in this country to solve all the worlds problems. To do as much good as we can and which we should do we must protect our means to deliver that good, since October 2007 we are still short almost 400,000 paying jobs and the population has gone up by 7.7 million. Wore is that much of the gains from the bottom have been in low paying and part time jobs so the family income has not kept up for the average family.

      I drive around a lot not in the Cleveland area (Ohio is doing better than most states) and I see people selling there belonging and i see closed shops all over the country I am in, in some cases entire strip malls are closed. This is or was the middle class and it is being decimated and this can be seen by anyone that cares to look.

      We we don’t get our hose in order we will be the ones looking for help!

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      1. Thanks for the response, while I do not have the economist knowledge as you, I certainly agree with the political philosophy. Thank you for the info. I certainly agree we have limits.

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  2. The United States population is just over 4% of the world total and our economy is just under $16.0 billion so if we gave it all away that would be a one time shot of about $2.30 for each person alive. And what would we have, we would all be worse off the following year as there would no America and no more help for anyone.

    So we must limit the help which mean we have to pick and chose whom we help and we must not help too much or we stop being able to help. The peace Core was one way to do the help but that didn’t solve the problems as in many cases the governments in those places needing help didn’t want their citizens to live better; or maybe they were just indifferent.

    To have open borders so we can have our drugs means that those that control the flow of drugs can and do control the flow of people into this country. They allow some in after payment and use many to bring the drugs as a price; but they also bring their infrastructure in to support their markets, so we bring in more crime than kids.

    If the border were sealed then the drugs would be stopped and the illegal as well so no one would be happy and therefore we do nothing. But that means that we have to spend more to support the inflow and that means we have to borrow that money from China — its not our money that is helping the kids, its coming from our friends and enemies and at some point in the near future the flow will stop and then what will be do?

    The only real solution is that you must teach the man to fish not give him the fish!

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    1. You are certainly entitled to you opinion, and thank you for having the courage to share. Clearly we disagree. I am curious, however, how you leaped to the point of “if we give it all away.” I can think of nobody suggesting we do such a mad thing. As for myself, I was addressing personal charitable contributions and not not tax-driven government spending.

      Re: your point about the Peace Corps and the times it has failed due, perhaps, to foreign government failures or interventions, I would highly recommend reading Why Nations Fail. Hypothetical question, taking the issue down to a small, small degree for comparison. If you observed that someone was a victim of theft and chose to help them, only to see them victimized again, and helped them, only to see them victimized again…should we capitulate to the people that keep victimizing them and stop helping? I think we agree in spirit that corrupt foreign governments that keep help from fully reaching their people need to stop, and perhaps we have a role in that or not, but we might disagree as to whether that means the victims stop being worthy of our assistance. Of course, that still leaves the question open as to whether that help is best directed by individuals or governments or some mixture of both.

      You make an interesting case about open borders, though I’m unclear as to what nature of sources you use that would lead you to those conclusions. That and it’s more than a bit tangential to the topic at hand since open borders weren’t even a suggestion, so if it doesn’t advance the particular discussion we’d do well to leave off on that point. Honestly, it’s so far afield I’m not even sure if that qualifies as straw man, though I’d nod in the direction of non sequitur.

      The point about sealing the borders and the borrowing of funds to support our inaction also strike me as more than a bit non sequitur. Nothing in the original post dealt with those points at all. Further, while foreign investment in our national debt does equal “borrowing money,” you might benefit from reading further into the subject to better understand all of the ramifications. For one thing, China is hardly the only holder of our debt, but I’ll let you decide by how much by pointing to this for starters: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/22/business/economy/as-the-us-borrows-who-lends.html

      I’ll also leave it to you to research how much other nations borrow from us, as it’s a two way street. Just like a balance sheet will show a companies assets versus liabilities so that one can determine net worth, it’s possible to arrive at an estimated “net gain or loss” when it comes to our public debt, but to achieve that, one must look at both sides, lending and borrowing. To do otherwise would be like looking at only half of a balance sheet and trying to arrive at conclusion about a company’s value.

      Re: your final point about teaching a man to fish, there is much wisdom to what you say, but I would ask two questions. First, if that person is hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, imprisoned, or lost, do we insist on teaching them to fish first, before the immediate survival needs are seen to? How much sense would that make? How would that fit into the context of the post to which you are replying? Also, yes, teaching job skills (how to fish) is essential. Who should fund that, and how?

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  3. What would Jesus do? Well, for starters, he would close the banks. All of them. I’m not sure about the credit unions, but everything else is based on usury. Banks should never be allowed to loan money they don’t have in physical reserves, and they should never be allowed to use money that is not theirs for investment.

    For the record – I was raised in the Christian faith, but am currently an agnostic, leaning atheist.

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