OPINION: Giving is needed all year-round, not just holidays
Free Press Opinion Columnists
H E SAID: Just before Thanksgiving week we had friends over. One of our friends was born very poor and in an area where he was discriminated against because of a disability. When the discussion changed to helping others, he had some real insight to share. It seems that people from the “right” side of the tracks would come and lavish a few gifts on the “poor people” at Christmas and then disappear the rest of the year. To him this was a profound act of disrespect. He felt demeaned because of the condescending attitude, and it appeared to him that the gifting did nothing but stroke the giver’s ego.
This conversation makes me revisit all of this society’s rules about Christmas gifting. Should we do it? Should I feel bad if I just want to feel good because I put a few pennies in the Salvation Army bucket? Mother Teresa said, “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” The lack of love our friend received was obvious, especially since they prohibited him from taking their daughters out.
SHE SAID: We are lucky to have the luxury or privilege to decide what or how much to give to others. The majority of the world does not have that comfortable option; anything they give is a sacrifice. The idea of giving has created some interesting circumstances. Why are people getting trampled at the doors of stores offering great Christmas deals? Why do people go into debt the rest of the year to give too many gifts at Christmas?
It is interesting to note the reaction to a recent Deseret News story about a Mormon bishop who dressed as a homeless man outside his church in Taylorsville, Utah. The reaction was less than Christian on the part of many church goers. A few reacted in a charitable manner; most ignored the man. One always wonders how Jesus would be treated if he suddenly appeared in the midst of the modern world. He was a rebel and a rabble-rouser, who did not act like everyone else. It is easy to believe in the golden rule of do unto others as you would have them do unto you, but it is much harder in practice. We need to take the time to understand how our gifts are perceived before we give them. That requires more work than most are willing to put into their giving. We must take the time if we want our gifts to be appropriate and meet the needs of those who receive them.
HE SAID: Most cultures encourage gifting. Some scientific studies also point out that gifting is an important part of the human psyche. When you look at gifting from a broader view, it is not the one-time gifting of dollars that matters, but it is the sustained effort to improve others. It is the old adage — give a man a fish and he will be hungry in an hour, but if you teach him to fish, he can feed himself and his family. It is helping people become better at solving their problems and meeting their needs that is the true gift. That’s why I am happy to see the development of micro-loan programs in the Third World. These programs lend money, mostly to females, to start a home business or other economic activity so they can provide for their family. Because they have to pay back the capital, they avoid the condescending feelings our friend hated so much. They can say that they did it for themselves with help. In part, that is why one of the most memorable gifts we received from our daughter was a donation in our name to an organization that would use it to buy a milk cow in Africa.
SHE SAID: It’s not just the rest of the world who could use micro-loans. What kind of plans could we come up with locally to fund a way to provide more jobs? We should give more support to the organizations who are not just making handouts, but hands up. They have taken the time to determine what is of the most benefit. About that fish adage, suppose someone could use some of that fishing equipment you have stashed downstairs?
The Skinners hope we all can participate in a world of compassion for each other. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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