Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Extreme home tragedy... but not the one you think.

If you've read the news today then you've almost certainly run across this "tragic" story. Indeed this story is a tragedy but just not the one that everyone thinks it is. This is a tragedy of charity.

Charity is usually thought of as socially beneficial, personally fulfilling, and intrinsically virtuous act. What's better than helping those in need? What isn't usually mentioned or thought of is how cruel, heartbreaking, and brutally pointless giving can be.

It's sad that this family lost their home but it isn't tragic. What is, is what it must feel like for the 1,800 people who put their hearts and souls into giving this family the kind of chance that most of them will never get. The people who built that house weren't all wealthy or successful. They don't have all of america rooting for their success, helping them through their issues, and giving them a chance when they need it most. No one is helping them. That didn't stop those same people from giving their time, labor, and resources to help this family only to watch them gamble it away.

I haven't seen their business plan nor do I know the exact circumstances of it's failure but what I do know is that any business is a risk and we need people to take those risks. We need them to take them with their own labor, their own wealth, their own heart and soul because we know that they won't squander it then. It's no promise of success but it at least ensures that they won't fail for lack of caring. There's nothing wrong with trying and failing but that isn't what they did. They didn't lift themselves up and reach for solid higher ground, instead they stood on our shoulders and so they could live with their heads in the clouds.

How many times have we seen this before? How often have you wondered what would happen if only you could help the destitute? The truth is that most of the time when we give, we don't follow up and we do so in order to feel good about giving without having to endure the cold reality of our  futile and wasted efforts.

Charity isn't a bad thing nor is it intrinsically noble either. It is a selfish act that makes us feel good because it might, just might make a difference in someone's life who really needs it. Even if we know that it probably won't.

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