What is Charity?
A recent event on Easter weekend got me thinking... what is charity? Is it giving money to every person on the street that asks? Is it donating a spare hour of your life every week to the local hospital or retirement center? Is is it devoting 27 months of your life to educating youth? I think they are all forms of charity. All are commendable in some way and all are necessary as well. But who gets to decide what type of charity is more valuable or important that the others?
After Easter Mass, my friend Christine and I went out for a holiday meal at, you won't believe it, TGIFriday's in Kyiv. Now this is not a normal excursion considering one lunch there is 10% of our monthly allowence. However it was a holiday and we planned to splurge a little. We were chatting on the corner before entering the restaurant finishing our drinks before entering, when a street man came up and asked for money. We politely smiled but did not give him any money and he went on his way. This is a normal occurance for English speakers in Kyiv. Well after he left a Brittish man walked around us mumbling just loud enough for us to hear that we were dispicable, had no understanding of charity and how we were comparable with a few bad words. He obviously was not a PCV and was wearing high end euro-fashion which also led me to believe that he is either a wife hunter or an Ex-Pat living the Ex-Pat lifestyle in a big glamourous city.
That got us thinking though? What really is charity? I think that Christine and I were a bit shocked that someone would have such audacity to criticize another without even knowing them. If he had chosen to give the man a griven or not (which is about $.20) I would have thought no more or less of him. In my opinion personally, time is much more valuable than money and though this particular man might not agree with me I think his solution to the worlds hunger and economic issues of merely throwing money at it is only a temporary fix. We give the man some money, and he gets a one piece of bread. Where is the sustainability in that? Yes, it was a good thing to do and it may give that rich british ex-pat some warm fuzzies for a moment. But after those wear off... what became of the hungry man? Is he still hungry? Probably. He probably never consedered that rather then perpectuate the beggar cycle, that is so prominent in this culture, that his time, or at least his money, may be better spent elsewhere? I guess you can call what he did philanthropy and all philanthropy needs a financial backer at some point, but it starts with an idea or goal that attracts the financial backer. It's not just a one time thing that gives you a fleeting moment of warm-fuzzies but a challenge that takes time and energy on top of money, and in someway benefits all the parties involved.
So what's the answer to the man asking for money... maybe help him locate the nearest soup kitchen or mission? that way he always knows where to go for a warm meal and not just one lousy piece of bread.
Just a thought from the Eastern Front...