Friday, May 8, 2015
When the social burps and encomiums rise up for one charitable cause or another -- get out there and volunteer for something! -- there is a skeptical worm that wriggles through my mind, pointing out the legerdemain that allows one man's giving spirit to stand in for another man's sloth. "How much of what is given in generosity is skimmed by the agency collecting for a good cause?" a skeptical voice asks and I steer clear of my own knee-jerk desire to give people what they ask for. I simply cannot get with the altruistic applause. Others are more generous ... or gullible, depending on your point of view. "There's a sucker born every minute," and I've had enough of being suckered.
But there is one bit of social generosity that I do in fact enjoy surrendering to.
Locally, once a year, the mail carriers drop off orange plastic bags at the houses where they deliver mail. The bags, which are sturdy, offer the opportunity for residents to donate dry goods to the local food bank. The mail carriers drop off the bags, which residents are free to fill, and then volunteer their time to pick up the results.
Each year, I swear I will not be so profligate as I was last year ... when I get to the supermarket and pick up spaghetti or cereal or rice or flour or other staples, I can't stop adding just one more thing and I spend more than I probably should, given the fixed-income budget.
One more thing. This is important. Hunger is important. Hunger is shameful in the richest country in the world. I don't care if the largesse is an excuse for not doing the work that would allow the recipient to buy his or her own damned groceries. Every effort entails waste -- ask any serious business man. From where I sit, people deserve to eat in a land where there is plenty to eat. On top of being painful, hunger is shameful.
Yes, the food drive bangs my chimes, not least because if I give someone a box of spaghetti, it is far less likely to be diverted into a corporate jet ride or some other organizational flimflam that keeps what I hope will reach the needy in the wrong hands. Organization is necessary, but when the percentages start to get skewed -- eg. 40% for the organization and only 60% for the needy -- I get crabby, however sweet-sounding the excuses may sound.
It is harder to skim when a box of spaghetti is the coin of the realm. I have some trust that my thought will not translate into some feel-good public relations. I prefer altruism that is altruistic.
But also, I do wish I were more generous of spirit. I guess I should be thankful that there is at least one opportunity that loosens my credulity and willingness to join the cause. I like being generous, but resent being nagged by those who call it "good."