It's that time of year again.
Time for cold weather and cozy blankets. Time for sparkly lights and Christmas (or "seasonal") music on the radio. And at the store, you may very well hear the incessant clamor of a bell at the door. Even if you avoid that particular beggar, the register itself will probably ask you if you'd like to donate to this or that "charitable" cause.
These "charitable partners" of the retailer are almost inevitably corporate "nonprofits," which can be very profitable indeed for those in their upper management. How much profit do outfits like Susan G. Komen or March of Dimes or Goodwill make compared to the rest of us encumbered by taxes? I don't have a number to put to it, but I'd bet my pittance of a wage that it's a lot.
In the spirit of the season, I will spare you my perpetual rant about taxes, and the Fed, and how unwise it is to trust the government with anything - but especially with money.
Instead, I would like to focus on giving (and to take every single opportunity to belittle the smug suburban NIMBY-ist, because they are among the most loathsome creatures currently infesting our society).
These are the people who say "Oh, absolutely!" when asked to donate at the register. The ones who give you the judgmental side-eye when you don't. The ones who will slip the drunkard begging at the street corner $20 while waiting for the light, and then congratulate themselves the rest of the day for being such a good and generous person.
The ones who would react with incredulous dismay to any suggestion that instead of giving money, they might've done more good to spend that $20 treating the drunk to a meal (and to be fair, there's much worse company than a street corner drunk who knows how to tell a good story. Like, say, a suburban NIMBY-ist NPR donor who is So Very Proud of their hybrid car and monoculture lawn, which is of course kept up by a service almost inevitably staffed with a bunch of illegals who wound up in the United States thanks to the ideology and voting patterns of the aforementioned suburban NIMBY-ists).
Most of these people have never experienced the real world. They're from the upper or upper middle classes and grew up in nice gated communities, went to college and earned some degree qualifying them for a white collar job. They then slept around (and called it dating), got married, bought a house in a suburb for an inordinate amount of money, had some kids that they don't make their priority by sacrificing their lives (in the mundane, day to day sense) to raise them. (Mothers who choose to work - I'm looking at you). They get divorced because they "fell out of love" with their partner, and feel hollow inside but can't figure out why because they lack any capacity for true introspection. They take a bunch of SSRIs and devote themselves to "self care" and call it a day because they're Good People.
You know these people. I know these people. We all know these people because the money shielding them from the rest of us rabble in the real world is running out, and so they're beginning to be forced into dealing with the rest of us. They are beginning to learn what it's like to be hungry, to have to look at price tags and to worry about money. They are beginning to have to learn how to live like the rest of us - those of us who grew up lower-middle or working class. If they hadn't exhausted every last iota of patience and forbearance I had for them long ago I would feel sorry for the poor wretches. It's not like they have the perspective to know what they are.
But they did exhaust my forbearance for them, and any goodwill I otherwise might have had for them has vanished in my perpetual struggle to get along in this world they have created through enabling.
And that word - enabling - brings me neatly along to the notion of "charitable giving." The concept is basically outsourcing.
"Here," says a Very Respectable middleman, smiling unctuously at the harried Working Mother as she's checking out at the grocery store. "I know you're far too busy as it is, and especially with The Holidays you simply don't have the time to do Charity yourself. Just donate to me, and I'll take care of it for you."
This is how everything else in her life works - pay someone else to take care of it for you. That's probably what her own soul-crushing salaried job is. And so she smiles, and donates, and thinks of herself as a good person for it.
Is she, though? Or is this paid charity just a cop-out?
When she gives the money she's giving nothing of herself. It's not that much of a sacrifice for her, because she's used to spending money; it's the most expendable thing she has, really. She's not spending any time on it, she's put little to no thought into it, and she has no personal connection to anyone who will be helped by that money. Looked at in a certain way, it's not dissimilar to medieval abuse of Catholic indulgences - the "charitable giver" is buying their way out of a duty, in this case the seasonal reminder of your duty to your fellow man and more particularly Your People, however you define what makes other people your own.
Mrs. Smith pointed this out more succinctly in a Gab post, but the point is too good for me not to restate it here. Charity is supposed to be personal, most especially when undertaken as a Christian duty. Smith also astutely observed that contemporary "charity" - that is, donating money to nonprofits - ignores or circumvents the concept of the "deserving poor," and erases important distinctions between those who are in unfortunate circumstances and those who created their own misfortune.
But no matter your belief system, there's a better way than doing the corporate cop- out.
Take care of those around you! Look after your own.
Pay attention. Is someone around you having a hard time? They might not be obvious about it - maybe they're quieter than usual, or you've caught them zoning out looking worried. Sometimes all it takes is a concerned word.
Do you know how they take their coffee? What kind of snacks they like? Even if all you do is leave a little treat on their desk, that can be the kind of pick-me-up, the little bit of thoughtfulness, that they needed. And honestly, isn't it better and easier for God to work through you with one small act that'll take you a minute or less, probably, than for you to just throw money at some corporate drone and call it good?
If you think something complimentary about someone, say it. If you have the opportunity to do something thoughtful, take it. That's all you need to do! You benefit as well - the joy of having done something good for someone who needed it is usually reward enough, but you're also creating a positive association with that person and establishing yourself as someone kind and trustworthy. There have been numerous times that I was credited with doing something nice that I didn't actually do, just because I made a habit of kindness and established that reputation for myself early on. This has benefited me immensely, and that's just in ways I can see- there are probably many more ways, subtle ways, of which I am unaware.
But as with so many other issues, the best way to address it is by taking direct action yourself. So, friends, go forth into the world and do good. Be good by doing good. Do this, and regardless of where or in what circumstances you find yourself, it will almost certainly be a Merry Christmas.