Personal Narrative

WWJD? Charity, faith and eradicating hunger

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 this blog will call. Nobody from this blog 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 for your help in building momentum.

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, as well as 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 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 such extensive involvement and giving would actually be detrimental to family and self, but to not suggest that might run contrary to Scripture. You be the judge of that, if that’s relevant to you. 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, for example, all 500 of my own blog followers at Ars Skeptica, saw me post (never happens) and each gave $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?

How much more good can we do here from Scholars & Rogues, with its far more extensive readership?

What if every American (on average) donated $100 a year…less than $10/month, above and beyond their current giving levels? For me, that’s less than two packs of smokes. Together, that’s $30 billion more split between us all. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, that $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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