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Thanksgiving 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 the world."

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.

Post-9/11 Reduced Contributions Continue

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 & God

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 teaching?

America, wake up!

[related article "America the Most Selfish"]

This was a selection from The Daily Diatribe

More on Economic Injustice

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