Over the last 60 years the federal government has intervened more expansively into the needs of the people. Especially for those on the lower end of the socio-economic scale. It is very sad to see folks that are hungry, out of work or disabled. If those conditions don’t make you feel down a bit then you are extremely hard hearted or so egotistic that you can’t notice the world around you. We have social security, medicare, medicaid, the food stamp program, breakfast and lunch programs for kids in school, unemployment benefits, and straight up welfare payments for those in need and we have public housing projects and affordable housing projects galore. You even get a refundable tax credit if you make less than $15,000 per year. I have nothing against helping those with needs as long as there is reciprocity involved by the recipient. They can give back gratitude and a pledge to do their part to improve their lot in life. The government takeover of all these activities has throttled one of our most endearing and uplifting qualities as a people–the desire to be charitable and to do charity for our neighbors in need.
When I was a kid the old folks who were frail lived with family. I had that happen with one of my great grandmothers and both of my grandmothers. There was even an aunt who had bad times and ended up with family for years. It never occurred to anyone then that the government would provide for them. That was a family duty and an act of charity at the same time. It was hard for sure but in the long run I think the older folks and the family who boarded them both benefitted from the experience. They weren’t shipped off to a medicare support location. The poor were helped by the local authorities at the city and/or the county level. There was welfare. It was meager but sustained life. Ask someone who lived through the Great Depression what they did when they had no money or food or a place to live. Please do that, don’t listen to some talking head on TV that tells you what it was like. They worked and prayed and figured things out for themselves mostly. They didn’t get food stamps or refundable tax credits or medicaid. When I was a child the poor kids at schoool were fed. The other parents and the PTA groups would raise money and pitch in enough so everyone got to eat. No one starved. There were no big banners or headlines, the problem was dealt with by the local community. When someone faced a serious health problem and the costs were too high then the church or community groups would raise money to help them out. I have no doubt that some folks got overlooked with this sub rosa approach to needs. But you know what, there are folks now that get overlooked by the welfare system even with all their computers and social security numbers.
Charity is a very good thing for our spirit and nation and I bemoan the passing of that tradition and torch to the government. The government now spends and taxes us at hundreds of billions every year for what would have been considered charity 60 years ago. I can appreciate that people don’t want to be as giving now in their communities for charity because those needs are filled by the government. Even when there is a natural disaster like a hurricane FEMA is there to the rescue. Lord knows we are taxed enough to pay for all these programs and the bloated bureaucracies that goes with each of them. That help dispensed by the government is so cold and impersonal. It has lost all the charisma of citizen helping citizen out of a feeling of compassion and become a class struggle between taxpayers and tax takers. That is not good for our societal mores. We should care about one another and be wiilling to lift our hand to aid another in need. Now we justifiably feel like we “gave at the office” and have already done our part when the IRS confiscated our money.
Have you ever lifted someone up off the street who was smelly and incoherent? Stopped to staunch the bleeding of an accident victim and not just walked or driven by without breaking pace or slowing down. Have you given food to a homeless person rather than tossing them a dollar? Have you spent an afternoon with a child who is alone because their parents are divorced or otherwise just not available? When you get your hands dirty helping others you cleanse your own soul. Those who want the government to take care of all our needs from cradle to grave miss the point of and the need for human interaction. “Government” is not human. It is indifferent. It is especially disturbing that so many are willing to accept government aid without end. They become those Roman mobs expecting bread and circuses for their support of the government. I hope we bring real charity back to the forefront of our social agenda. Just like with the health care debate now I think that those exceptional needs that some use as the horror story to ignite emotions about someone who can’t afford this or that operation should be dealt with by charity. If we practice real charity and less government, we as individuals and as a nation will be the better for it. An act of charity ennobles the grateful recipient and burnishes the kinder spirit of the giver. Government can’t bring good to its people, it can only bring force and power and results, numbers, outcomes. The good is within the individual and the people. The “good” government does is only defined by the elites who determine those results, outcomes, numbers and forces to exert. I hope Americans never lose their charitable hearts to the mandates and dictates of government run social agendas.
Does the Post Office still have general delivery? I wonder. You used to be able to mail a letter to someone in another town care of “general delivery” and they could retrieve it at the main post office. Every town had a main post office. You didn’t need an address and certainly not a zip code. Of course the addressee had to go to the post office and ask under their name at general delivery. A slow but sure way to communicate with those moving around. http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com