Admonition: Don't Be So Stingy, America!
Aid Worker: "More people are
going hungry in the richest city in the richest country in the history of
November 22, 2001
One way to show one's
thanksgiving for being blessed with unprecedented abundance would be to
share some of that abundance with others less fortunate.
Unfortunately, while in their own minds Americans consider themselves to be
a generous people, in reality they are proving to be anything but.
I'll just briefly mention
here the fact that the United States devotes far less a percentage
of its Gross Domestic Product to foreign aid than any other industrialized
nation. Many of those other countries, for their size, actually give
several times as much as we do, and one is literally ten times more
generous than we are.
What is particularly galling
in this post-9/11 period, is hearing the continual drumbeat from the media
about how wonderfully generous we Americans have been in rallying to
contribute $1.5 billion to the victims of the terrorist attacks.
As I wrote five weeks ago,
what's been contributed is a lot of money, but for our population size, does
not represent a heck of a sacrifice on most people's part. There are
about 105 million households in the United States. So the average
donation per household is about $15.
What's worse is the
"robbing Peter to pay Paul" trade-off. In other words, as
the previous column detailed, people were simply taking the charitable
donations they would have made to other charities, and sending them instead
to 9/11-related funds. Those other charities were left wanting and
unable to help the needy ones who depended on them.
It was hoped that as the
weeks went by, people would dig a little deeper and also send desperately
needed contributions to those charities unrelated to September 11.
Unfortunately, the New York Times reports
that organizations that provide food to hungry people in the New York region
continue to suffer drastically reduced donations:
Interviews with food
pantries and soup kitchens around the region indicate that several are
forgoing the free turkeys for Thanksgiving, and many others are warning
that they may have to eliminate year-round meal programs and other
services for the poor if things do not improve.
Joel Berg, executive
director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, said some of the
city's 1,000 soup kitchens and food pantries had reported turning away
hungry people more often since Sept. 11...
"As a result, more
people are going hungry in the richest city in the richest country in the
history of the world."
Could it be said any more
clearly: in the richest city in the richest country in the history of the
world, more people are going hungry.
Hopefully between now and
Christmas, Americans suffering from "donor fatigue" can perhaps
"cure" themselves of this affliction by foregoing one or two
doodad purchases and transferring the money they thus save to the less
fortunate among us.
The Bible, Generosity
Americans see themselves as a
deeply religious people. All religions stress the need to give
generously to those in need. Perhaps nowhere is this ethical
injunction stated more powerfully than in Matthew 25:32-46.
Asked on Judgment Day by those condemned to Hell the reason for their
punishment, Jesus replied:
42... I was hungry and you
gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43. I was a
stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick
and in prison and you did not visit me.' 44. Then they also will answer,
'Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or
sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?' 45. Then he will answer
them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of
these, you did it not to me.'
As we treat the least of
those among us, is how we treat God. Would any religion deny that
America, wake up!
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