Monday, May 29, 2006

Tragedy is tragedy, and my vocabulary issues should not be an issue, but...

Does the word 'charity' make you sneer a little? If a friend gave you a box of cute clothes that fit you perfectly, but then you overheard her telling someone she gave the box to charity would you bristle and delete her name from your speed dial list? I didn't want to write about my aversion to hand-outs, or more specifically the concept of charity. I wanted to talk about how difficult it's been for the world to recover from all the recent natural disasters and how war-torn countries aren't getting front-page publicity they should, but I looked up 'giving hangover' and every website had some reference to 'charity' in it. And I got a bad taste in my mouth. Any other word, assistance, aid, help, support, all these would be fine. In fact, when I've donated to the Red Cross lately, aid is the word I think of. But if a see a panhandler, I think 'charity.' The concept of 5100 people dying in Indonesia made me cry last night. But that's what it was - a concept. Even with the gruesome pictures, I still couldn't relate - taste, touch, smell, the suffering. It's the same here. The concept of hunger in America is frightening: one in ten households experience hunger or the risk of hunger in our country. And so when the Missoula food bank comes around collecting cans I give them the good stuff - not just the unused pumpkin pie mix and lima beans. But if I see a haggard man panhandling by the freeway on-ramp I pretend I'm looking for something in my purse.

I hear charity and I think, can't get off his lazy butt. I hear aid and I think, helping a blighted village get a leg up. Is it just symantics, or does it have something to do with my ability to empathize with my fellow man at the most personal level.

Before this degenerates into a completely self-absorbed discussion of how I approach charitable contributions, please visit here and do what you can to assist this ravaged area with its recovery efforts. Regardless of how I feel about one-on-one interactions with people in need, doing nothing is not okay.


Blogger Dawn said...

As a person who took four bags to "Planet Aid" today, I must say that I do understand your connundrum.

5/29/2006 3:24 PM  
Blogger wordgirl said...

We took a tour of the Food Bank here and were given a front row seat to the whole thing. Amazing. What was really beneficial was to learn the kinds of foods familys in need really well as what happens to the dented cans and stuff that gets donated (thrown out).

Here's something I found really interesting: Ramen Noodles. Families love Ramen Noodles and the Food Bank loves them too. They're cheap and not heavy when in bulk and easy to transport. You can dress them up with vegetables or drop eggs into them (for protein) and make an ersatz "egg drop soup". Who knew? So we always give a buttload of that.

5/29/2006 5:35 PM  
Blogger Mitch said...

Ramen Noodles are the staple of so many poor college kids around here.
I went through my own stint of nothing in the cabinets by milk, bread, and ramen noodles. Easy and fast to make, they're the shiznet. Plus, pasta is always filling, a good thing when you'd kill for a bite of hineese *g* (yes, it was a typo, although funny you mentioned skunk, since Gram and I were mourning the loss of my sperm and she said maybe a skunk ate them, and I said I'd like to have a pet skunk...but I wouldn't eat him, even if I was out of Ramen Noodles.

5/29/2006 7:04 PM  
Blogger Ditsy Chick said...

I cannot bring myself to give to the panhandlers off the freeway anylonger either....but I am completely in favor of helping others who are in need because of a tragedy..thank you for caring.

5/29/2006 8:12 PM  
Blogger Amber said...

I really appriciate your honesty here.Makes one think. And I did check out the sight.

I wrote a post eariler this week (that blogger lost.grrr) about trying to understand my mixed feelings about violence and using force to stop genocide. Isn't it a pain in the ass to think so much!? lol.I give myself a freakin' headache.


5/29/2006 10:07 PM  
Anonymous DD said...

I think the word aid reminds us of first aid - given to someone who is a victim of an accident.

Charity is something given to the "unfortunate". In America people are most often judged to be unfortunate because of personal moral failures: too lazy, too much drinking, gambling, … . Our myth is that this is the land of great opportunity, and anyone can make it to the top. Being unfortunate means that you didn't take advantage of all the opportunities you had.

The reality is that there's a spectrum of situations ranging from victim of circumstance to victim of self. It makes for a gray area between "aid" and "charity" (as well as for lots of politcal grandstanding on social welfare issues).

BTW: I am humbled an honored to find myself on the B-List! (I was wondering what ticked up in our blog's stats lately!).

5/30/2006 12:45 AM  
Anonymous V-Grrrl said...

I'm with DD: "There's a spectrum of situations ranging from victim of circumstance to victim of self."

But in the end, hungry is hungry and hurting is hurting, figuring out how and when to help is an ongoing process but the Red Cross is a great place to start.

5/30/2006 5:18 AM  
Anonymous TB said...

Word. And you're not self-absorbed for raising these questions. It's hard sometimes to know where your money or donation can make the biggest impact. Thanks for the reminder.

5/30/2006 10:17 AM  
Blogger Arabella said...

Good, thought-provoking post. I personally despise panhandling for several reasons, not the least of which is being made to feel guilty on a regular basis. I'm a big fan of legitimate charities, though.

5/30/2006 11:09 AM  
Blogger Tink said...

It's difficult to decide what cause to donate to and what to donate at all... Time? Food? Money?

There are so many suffering Americans. Sometimes I don't feel OK donating to another country. And sometimes it's hard to decide which is a real cause and which charity is going to take 90% of the money donated.

5/30/2006 12:02 PM  
Blogger Jess Riley said...

Thanks for the link; you're a good person.

I have a huge guilt complex about charity and aid. And I do donate whatever I can when asked by various nonprofits.

But I got annoyed when some guy asked us for money while we were grocery shopping this weekend. Probably because he had on more jewelry than I did.

5/30/2006 1:54 PM  
Anonymous JMo said...

In college I used to occasionally try a little experiment with the (abundant) population of "homeless" in Tucson, AZ. I'd hit the grocer, buy some ramen and some fruit and hand it to the first guy I ran into at an intersection. Sadly, I had unpleasantries shouted back at me more times than thanks. Sad because now I am hyper-critical of every panhandler I see: Are their cloths clean? probably not really outdoors...

Its a hard thing - I'm a guy and I still feel for these people - regardless of how they might have ended up there. As noted - hungry is hungry and cold is cold.

On a lighter note - I got a good laugh a while back - a guy had a sign that said "bet you can't hit me with a quarter". I thought about getting a $10 roll...

5/30/2006 4:12 PM  
Blogger Mitch said...

All this reminded me of a man who used to dress in shabby clothes and sell roses on a street corner. A friend of mine knew him, said he's a doctor, lives in the ritzy section fo town, dunno why he gets kicks outta dressing like a bum & selling roses on the off ramp.

Also, to anyone who may be interested, Erica Spindler (writes mystery, suspense) is donating something like 5% of her sales to help NOLA. She's a native & if you send her your receipt, she'll donate 5% of the purchase price, and send you a nifty magnetty thingy...or something. Getting while giving, and I'm all about doing what I can for NOLA anyhow.

(p.s. I made the B-List! WOOT! - thanks Mig!)

5/30/2006 8:31 PM  

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