The Amazing Thing About Stories Like This…

The Amazing Thing About Stories Like This… May 22, 2014

…is that the same people who perpetually complain that state social safety nets deprive us of the power to be charitable (which is, itself, utter rubbish) will also complain about acts of private charity like this:

YouTube prankster raises $44K to give homeless man a house

Jesus says specifically to give to those who *cannot* repay you. Contemporary conservative American culture says that such people are parasites and that giving to somebody who will never repay you is just feeding parasitism. I have no idea how it is known a priori that such people are parasites. But I know from experience that whenever I run across stories like this, there will be a huge outcry against the generous person for being a sucker, for trying to buy love, etc. and I am always assured that the recipient of such kindness will be called a parasite, a scam artist, a cunning thief, human debris, etc.

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  • Dave G.

    The only real complain I saw on the threads was that people refuse to pay taxes and support government programs and government healthcare. Some questioned the long term good this will do, and wondered if there might have been a better way to use the money (remembering the string of stories about that show that would rebuild houses for people in need, only to see those people go bankrupt a few years later). A couple others wondered if there might be bigger issues that have caused the man to be homeless that, if not addressed, could come back to cause problems. None of the comments seemed to be about buying love or being a sucker. Nor did I see anyone complaining about the act itself. Most said it was a nice, heartwarming story. Is there a link with people specifically complaining about the act of charity as an act of charity or the recipient as a parasite for us to look at and compare?

    • Pete the Greek

      Yes Mark, I also am not able to find the legion of comments on the story saying how bad it is. They must be there, as your post is obviously implying they exist. Where are they?

    • MarylandBill

      I think one can always question the long term good that any act of charity might do… and thus never actually be charitable. Ultimately our act of charity is not suppose to fix their entire lives, rather (i think) it is to be a conduit of God’s grace in the world. What they do with that grace is their decision.

      • Dave G.

        But it’s not necessarily a bad thing to ask if there is a better way or a way to help more.

      • The ultimate purpose of radical generosity (which goes a bit beyond ordinary charity) is to teach radical generosity (and thus, have more people able to give)

      • KM

        Yes. These small acts of mercy and grace often have profound repercussions. I can tell you that I remember those anonymous people in my family’s life who helped us 40-45 years ago when we struggled through poverty, and I say a prayer of blessing for them, and thanks to God for these people. (My sisters and I grew up poor after my mother and father divorced. My mother worked very hard at 2-3 part-time jobs to sustain us. God bless her and all those Good Samaritans who helped us. I now do my best to “pay it forward” to others in need.)

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    It isn’t only that so many object to giving to people who cannot repay you. They somehow think the person must “deserve” it. Are you trying to better yourself? Are you trying to find a job? Are you eating only old rice and bread? Such thinking is COMPLETELY antithetical to the Gospel. Jesus did NOT say, “Give to everyone who asks of you — as long as you’re sure they deserve it.”
    Deserve has nothing to do with it. None of us deserve the grace and mercy of God. If you’re giving to someone and you find out that they don’t deserve it, even if you find out they’re probably cheating you, don’t get stingy. Give them twice as much.

    • Pete the Greek

      Where are the people claiming that this guy didn’t deserve this? I’ve found the story on a couple of other sites now and have found no outpouring of derision. So far I’ve found one commenter on a site who said something along the lines of ‘would have been better to use the money to send him to rehab.’ implying that he was a junkie.

      Seriously, where are all these horrible, monstrous people who are offended by this story. They must exist, right? Where are they?

      • Mark S. (not for Shea)

        I was addressing more general instances of charity. Like when you see the guy on the street corner holding up a sign. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, “He looks healthy. He should get a job. I’m not giving him a dime.” Or the times I’ve heard, “If she doesn’t like welfare, she should stop having children.” Or, “If they don’t like working 60 hour weeks with no health benefits or overtime pay, they should just get a different job.”
        My family is all Republicans. I hear this constantly.
        I keep trying to get them to read OLIVER TWIST, but it isn’t working so far.

        • Pete the Greek

          I think the youtube guy has the better idea here. Note what he did: He didn’t raise $44,000 and just GIVE the guy the cash. He used it to get him a house. THIS, I think, is the best way to do it.

          I will say that I am VERY leery of giving cash to panhandlers. This is because I work a real estate business in the low C and D class neighborhoods of my city and I tend to see a good bit more than I’m guessing your Republican family does.

          When it comes to safety nets, I rather like John C Wright’s thoughts on the topic. While I don’t totally agree with all of his points, it comes closer to what I think would help than the system we have in place now.

          • Could you give a link to that? I’m curious, I know.

            • Pete the Greek

              Sure. It’s part of this post.

              • Thanks. I’d agree with him on some issues but not others. Starvation isn’t happening in America, malnourishment IS (most of those obese people, like myself, are not getting the nourishment we need to be healthy, and that turns into a cycle of high fat, high sugar diet and no exercise rather early in life- because you can’t afford a gym membership if your main calculation at the grocery store is how many calories can I get for a dollar- an attitude and a taste which persists even after one has money again instead of a EBT card).

                And while I agree with *local* government welfare (no welfare department should be serving a tax base of more than 10,000 people, just as no market should be allowed to serve more than 100,000) the idea of lowering the nun’s loophole to a tithe doesn’t work for me. It may be enough in some areas of the country, but once again, the *local* government welfare office should set the percentage. In some areas of the country it should be 80% to 90% of income given away to qualify for the loophole; and I acknowledge that in other areas people are so greedy that the loophole should be as little as 5%.

                • Pete the Greek

                  “Starvation isn’t happening in America, malnourishment IS”
                  – True enough. When we do clean outs of the low end and Section 8 apartments in our buildings, I am often amazed at what we find: TONS of empty cigarette boxes, empty booze bottles, tons of containers from premade meals (which I think may even be WORSE for your health than cigarettes).

                  The thing is, people KNOW all that stuff is bad for you. As a culture, we are beaten about the head constantly by people telling us how bad tons of sugar, tobacco, etc. is. It’s also expensive, comparatively. But they STILL buy it. I honestly don’t know what can realistically be done about it.

                  • KM

                    Hi Pete,
                    Having been poor myself as a child (with a divorced mom raising us), the pre-made meals and the McDonald’s meals are just cheaper even if not nutritious. The addictions to bad habits like cigarettes and alcohol are some poor people’s way of coping. Those bad habits were not my mother’s way of coping (thank God) but I’d seen others who “escaped” reality this way. Not sure how to help on this besides what the church and government provide with helpful addiction programs and services.

                  • One proposal I’ve seen is to change the price of food to a ratio based on the nutritional content of the food, thus pricing cheap calories out of the reach of the poorest Americans and substituting local, fresher food as cheaper (since processing removes nutrition, and so, often, does shipping).

                    • Pete the Greek

                      I understand the idea behind that, but I am TOTALLY against that. That smacks of WAY too much control and seems ripe for serious abuse.

                    • The opposite is already true however. Processed food, since it has a longer shelf life, is inherently cheaper per calorie to mass produce. In addition to that, we’ve got massive government subsidies still in place on wheat, dairy, corn and sugar cane, actually reversing the cost to create on those ingredients (in that, farmers who plant subsidized crops, usually are selling for less than the cost to grow, and making it up on the subsidy).

                      Until we change the basic equation where unhealthy food is subsidized and healthy locally grown food isn’t, we will continue to see this kind of malnutrition.

        • I found Great Expectations taught that lesson much better.

          • Pete the Greek

            I remember reading that book a while back. The story wasn’t all I’d hoped for, though.

            Thank you! Thank you! I’ll be here all week!

    • merkn

      So he should have just given him the cash, right? I agree deserve has nothing to do with it, but I think it is reasonable to be circumspect about how you give.

  • MikeinCT

    When giving food or clothing, there’s no need to question how someone will use it. But is it uncharitable to ask how someone would spend the money we donate? I know with what little money I have to give, I wouldn’t want to give it to someone who would just spend it on drugs or alcohol when there are other ways in which my money can help those in need.

    • I don’t think it is easy to turn a house into alcohol or drugs.

      • Pete the Greek

        You are totally correct. This is why my family does contributions through volunteerism and/or contributions directly to local organizations that assist the local needy. You can usually be assured that what you give will do the most good that way instead of just handing out cash.

      • MikeinCT

        Which is why I think that this is a great story, and a great act of giving. I’m merely responding to Mark’s original general statement and other commenters here that were implying that not wanting to give cash money to those who would abuse it is somehow a betrayal of the Gospel.

        • Not giving food, clothing, shelter, water, and medical care to those who need it is a betrayal of the Gospel.

          Whether the recipient abuses drugs or not is not material to giving them food, clothing, shelter, and water.

  • Marthe Lépine

    To those who complain because they have read the comments to the story and did not find the negativity that Mark is pointing out: I think Mark used the story to illustrate his general point, and as an introduction to his comments about an attitude that many people (unfortunately) do have about private charity, taxes or both.

    • Pete the Greek

      From the post:
      “is that the same people who perpetually complain that state social
      safety nets deprive us of the power to be charitable (which is, itself,
      utter rubbish) will also complain about acts of private charity like

      No, no they don’t. His is a false statement.

      That entire first paragraph is irrelevant to the topic, and also false. It is not needed in any way to introduce the thoughts that follow.

      He also makes this statement: ” But I know from experience that whenever I run across stories like
      this, there will be a huge outcry against the generous person for being a
      sucker, for trying to buy love, etc.
      and I am always assured that the
      recipient of such kindness will be called a parasite, a scam artist, a
      cunning thief, human debris, etc.

      Really? You KNOW that, do you? Funny, I don’t know that. I’ve looked for evidence of it and see none.

      No, Mark’s comments are out of order here. It is not demonstrating a general point at all, but rather insulting. If he had proof there was a massive outrage at this gentleman’s act of charity, he would have posted it or linked to it.

      If I didn’t know any better, I’d say he was engaging in flame bating to boost his page rank.

      • Pete the Greek

        For some reason, Disq will not allow me to respond directly to your comment. Weird.

        I did not say mark was deliberately proclaiming falsehoods. I said his statement is false. This story is fairly widespread and I haven’t seen any kind of major backlash against it. I have in fact ACTUALLY SEEN an enormous amount of ‘Hey! That’s awesome!’ comments on it. To be honest, based on the tone of your post, you seem to WANT there to a backlash. My point is that this isn’t exactly a breaking story, and so far it’s incredibly positive in its reception.

        Perhaps if you head over to the Reason website, which is an ocean of Ayn Randianism, you could find some bad comments about this, maybe.

        But again, if there is such a backlash against this story, where is it? I see a LOT of anger in your post directed at people who see elsewhere who don’t approve of giving (a very sad bunch of people, I’ll agree with you). But I see nothing on the net about how this is a terrible story. Got any links? Got a laundry list of comments condemning it? Got some comments from people calling the homeless man “a parasite, a scam artist, a cunning thief, human debris, etc.”?

        I didn’t think so.

  • Mariana Baca

    Who complains about this? Nobody does. Or if they do, they are not the same people that complain about gov’t overreach. (gasp, there is more than one type of conservative/libertarian?!)

    • Pete the Greek

      That’s CRAZY talk! Now you go back and conform to Mark’s stereotype right this instant, little miss!

  • Cypressclimber

    Has anyone — on earth — actually complained about this? Or is our genial host simply trolling his own blog here to stir things up?

  • Loretta

    The same people who complained that the kids in New York gave the $91,000 back to the woman who hid it in her couch. And there have been lots of those.