Charity versus Welfare

You are driving through downtown, and you see a homeless woman standing on the corner.  You think, "I hope she is getting some help."  You drive on.

There are two sources for help for that homeless woman: charity and welfare.  Let's examine them, how they work, and their effects on her and the rest of us.

First, charity.  There are many charitable organizations in every locality, taking voluntary donations from private citizens, churches, and businesses and aiding people in need.  But let's look at charity on a more personal level.  Let's say you, sitting in your car observing the homeless woman, have the impulse to help directly and personally.  You drive to the grocery store and buy a couple of bags of groceries for the woman (and her kids playing on the curb).  You drive back to where she sits, get out of the car, and hand her the groceries.  She looks at you, surprised, and thanks you graciously.  You get back into your car and drive off, feeling as though you did something meaningful today.

Next week, you see the same woman sitting on a bench on the market downtown, looking not much better off than she did the week before.  Her kids are playing on the dirty sidewalk with some old toys.  You walk by, but then you get an idea.  It's a little cold outside, so you stop into a shop and buy coffee and hot chocolate for her and the kids.  Again, surprised that you noticed her, she thanks you and asks you to have a seat on the bench beside her.  This time, you are also surprised (at the invitation), and you sit down and talk for a while.

You learn the woman's name, where she's from, and some of the details of her situation.  You learn about her kids, where she stays at night, and what she's hoping to do to get out of this mess.

Over the next few weeks, you see this woman several times downtown, and you make a point to stop and talk to her, which seems to brighten her day.  You get to know her kids.

Walking away from her one day, you are again surprised and realize that you have made a friend.  What a blessing!  And it started with a little charity.

Next, let's consider welfare.  Another poor woman, with kids also, is counseled by a friend to apply for welfare.  She rides the bus over to the welfare office; waits for hours; is examined by a detached government employee; and is given her EBT card, which she has never used before.

She stops at the grocery on her way home and purchases a few items with the food stamps.  The cashier gives her an unusual look when she pulls out the EBT card.  Or was it?

The woman has not been on welfare before, has not been "in the system," so her senses are heightened.  She overhears conversations; and reads letters in the newspaper about "welfare mothers" and the "safety hammock."  These understandably make her feel a bit guilty for needing welfare.

After a few months of this, and also some surprise visits to her home from suspicious-acting caseworkers (asking a lot of questions about the children), she starts to get the feeling that people resent her being on welfare.  She feels as if she is taking money she does not deserve, though no one has actually told her that.  She feels like a suspect.

About that time, a man sees her standing on the corner having a smoke, thinking, "There's another welfare mother I'm paying for."  He's resentful because he's one of the few in our country who actually pays attention, looks at his pay stub, and watches how government is spending his money.  He knows that every dollar of welfare hitting that woman's pocket is accompanied by a dollar or more of government waste.  His resentment grows, thinking he is being forced to give money to her that she did not earn.

There is no contact between the man, who creates the wealth, and the woman, who consumes it.  The government is the intermediary and intends there to be no interaction between the two, in the cause of privacy, of course.

With welfare, there is no compassion, no giving from the heart, no receiving with thanks, no interpersonal communication, no friendship, no blessing, no growth.  There is only resentment.  The wealth-creator feels used and robbed, and the welfare recipient feels guilty, or worse, entitled.  Both know well that the goal of the welfare system is not self-sufficiency, but government dependency, and the system accomplishes that goal with chilling efficiency.  Government welfare divides us against each other, devolving into a cowardly congressional vote-buying program.

In both cases, wealth flows from those who create it to those less fortunate (or even irresponsible), but the method of flow is very important in determining the outcome.  When the cold, faceless, gutless machine of government facilitates helps for the poor through welfare, the result for both the giver and receiver is toxic.  When individuals and groups of individuals give out of the goodness of their hearts through charity, the result is dignified help to the needy and a building of relationships that ultimately move the poor toward self-sufficiency.

A hundred years ago, before the welfare state, many people in our society were at times charity recipients and at times givers.  There was less shame in receiving and no resentment in giving.  And relationships were forged in the process.  Government was much less involved.

We conservatives have abandoned the poor to an evil government.  If we are truly conservative, truly caring about our future and our country, we will not let this stand.  Government has successfully poisoned us against one third of America.  Will we put up with this manipulation?  If your comment on this article is the usual acerbic criticism of welfare deadbeats (yawn), you have been poisoned.

Here's what you can do – not to just change them, but to change us.  Get involved with a group that helps the poor, with clothing, food, earning a GED, learning to read, or whatever fits your talents.  So what if you are working beside bleeding-heart liberals?  There are numerous organizations, religious and secular, in your area where you can help people in need and develop relationships with them.

Don't write a check!  Don't work in the back room of some charity.  Put yourself in a situation to personally bless a poor person.  Learn his name.  Teach him how to live.  Neither the bank nor the government has a return channel for the blessing you will receive – cut them out of the loop.  Ignore any entitlement zombies you encounter.

Take my challenge, and you will find genuine, sincere but poor Americans you will call friends.  And they will grow.  I dare you to try.

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