Thoughts on Misunderstanding Charity

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Bryan is an artist, father, husband, and son (not really in that order). He works for the Department of Vetern's Affairs and writes and administers The Fireside Post with his father, Ohg Rea Tone. His writings have not been published, though they have been printed a lot.

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Thoughts on Misunderstanding Charity

The holiday season is upon us, and everyone is geared up for the giving season. I think that a conversation on the merits of charity is essential at this stage of the game. I read an article on Trying To Follow a while back about clothing drives. It has some great fodder for conversation. In the article, the author talks about the wrong idea of charity:

See, the problem with clothing drives is that often they result in a “hand me down” sort of charity. We donate our old, out of fashion, and undesirable clothes and make room in our closets for the new wardrobe we’ve been eager to purchase. Not only do we physically clean out our closet, but do it in the name of “charity” as if these actions are a noble act of giving. (If I am not describing you, please don’t feel judged or feel the need to defend your actions). This is a “false charity.”

What am I suggesting instead? I would like to see convictions drive our actions, not events like a clothing drive. If you have two coats and you only need one, then you should give the other away. The next time there is a coat drive your only option should be to buy a new coat and donate that one to the coat drive, because the one you currently have you need. If you have more shoes then you need you should give them away, and if you have more clothes then you need you should give those away too.
A church full of people living out their convictions would have no use for a clothing drive (unless it was to collect new items), because every member would have already given away their excess.

This speaks to the idea of misunderstanding charity in your previous post. Even if we look at it in terms of investment and return, as Dr. Yanus did, you can see the return for your investment being equal to the amount you invested. If you send away your old, haggared coat to the coat drive and go to Target and buy a new one, you have invested little in the less fortunate and invested much in your own wardrobe. Your return will be minimal, since the coat you bought goes down in value as soon as you buy it and will ultimately only be good for the next coat drive. The life of that new coat, however, if invested in someone else, provides a greater opportunity for that person to succeed and ultimately contribute more to the overall economy

I think that the most important factor in understanding charity is self evaluation, because the more we evaluate our own actions and free up our resources to contribute to the greater good, the less the greater need will be. Some, however, are compelled to see the bottom line. The bottom line in this example is that charity misunderstood is a poor investment, and lifting up the under privileged to contribute to the overall success of our society is just good business.

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