Who Do They Think They Are?

I’d like to share some excerpts from my morning reading:

“A man is not complete who believes that his advancement depends on crushing others…”
(One Day at a Time)

“Generosity is a problem for some; they feel resentful. Giving to others seems unfair to them: ‘Nobody gave anything to me,’ they say. ‘I had to fight for everything I got.’ As if that were a reason to deny others.”
(The Promise of a New Day)

I have read a number of books on the theme of abundance that have prompted me to look at the world as full rather than as lacking. When my attitude is right, I find myself able to be generous. “There is enough to go around,” I tell myself. There is nothing to fear.

I have to admit that this is something I have to continue to tell myself. I go back and forth between grasping as though I am going to run out of something and sharing what I have without concern. My spiritual stance is that there is enough to go around but, because people horde out of fear of not having enough, others are left with less than they need. This happens between individuals, in community, even between nations. For sure we in the United States have more than our fair share of the world resources.

We Americans, I think, are especially guilty of resenting people who are in need as though they choose to be needy at our expense. How dare a person want a break on their rent (with the help of my tax dollars) when I worked hard to get this house and pay the mortgage.  Who do they think they are, getting free food stamps (and spend it on cigarettes and junk food) when I work hard to afford to take my family on an annual vacation and out to dinner once in a while? It doesn’t matter that I have been able to get a decent-paying job and this other person doesn’t make enough money with two jobs to pay the rent or to do pay for an education. They need to work harder even if it means leaving children home alone or with people unqualified to care for them or if they have to live in an unsafe neighborhood.

A few dollars out of my paycheck just seems unfair. If I think about it long enough, I can convince myself that someone (the needy person or the government) is stealing my money from me. Never mind that only a 11% of what I pay in taxes is for safety-net programs designed to help people with temporary need or long range inability to work. If I give too much, I myself will be in need which is shameful.

Alas. I once went on a mission trip with a dear priest friend, Father Tony Kroll. Fr. Tony taught me about economic discrepancies and how the “haves” tend to blame the “have-nots” for their plight. He demonstrated by his personal involvement with the poor that the poor do not choose poverty and that when given a fair opportunity (which might include some help)  people will find their way out of poverty. To think anyone wants to be poor and dependent is crazy thinking that justifies selfishness. If there are exceptions, so be it. I think even Fr. Tony would admit there are. My question is, should we allow innumerable families and children to suffer from hunger because of a small number who don’t seem to appreciate the help given to them.

The second reading from The Promise of a New Day inspires me after all my ranting because it speaks to an attitude of abundance:

“Giving to others takes nothing away from us; on the contrary, it refreshes the soul.”

2 thoughts on “Who Do They Think They Are?”

Comments are closed.