For several years now, always around this time of year, I have had the urge to commission a giant banner and hang it across the main drag of my little town in Wisconsin. The street is four lanes wide there where 1st street meets Main, and since we don’t have a bypass yet, all kinds of people would see my banner, and great acts of charity would be wonderfully inspired!
My idea is to put up a humongous banner that would say “…UNLESS YOU CAN THINK FOR YOURSELF!” Wouldn’t that be great? Or else it could say “…IF YOU DON’T PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR OWN NEIGHBORS!” It’s hard to decide, but maybe I would go with “…OR GIVE DIRECTLY TO THOSE IN NEED AND SEE YOUR CHARITABLE GIVING GO AT LEAST 10 PERCENT FURTHER!” Ok, so that last one would probably take two or three street-crossing lengths, and might just cause a few accidents. I’ll keep working on the wording.
I strongly believe in the value and importance of Christian charity. We rich Americans, and compared to most of the world all of us in the great middle class of the United States are rich, should be sharing from our plenty, with all of those who are struggling with basic needs unmet. But we should not allow our government to coerce our charity, and we should not hire middlemen to manage our offerings. Do we think we must protect our own hands from getting dirty, or are we too lazy to pay attention?
If each neighborhood maintained a living network of caring people instead of a cold shield of distance and selfish privacy, the local needs could be known and addressed by real people with real hands and real hearts. Real charity can begin and end with a Tater Tot casserole, a gassed up chainsaw in action, a patient sit with an old man or woman, or an hour of grocery shopping.
Of course many big jobs can not be done except by a large organization, so they must exist. But too often we then let those groups intrude where one or two neighbors should be giving their charity directly, and those in real but simple need are imperiled and fall through the proverbial cracks. When it’s time to give your money, you can give in a way that ALL of it benefits your new friends. Or you can give “SO THAT YOUR MONEY WILL GO TO THE DIRECTOR’S MILLION DOLLAR SALARY!”
Hey maybe that’s the pro charity slogan I was looking for! Oh yeah, I should point out that my sign would be hung just behind the one that is put up in my town every fall which says “PLEASE GIVE TO YOUR UNITED WAY”.