No. 488
One of the hot topics of our day is something called faith-based charities. As this relates to the United States government, this is the simple concept of using organizations that are faith based to deliver services to the poor and the needy. The idea behind this concept is that people of faith, and the organizations they represent, can do a better, more efficient job of delivering these services than some agency of government can or will do. With certain guidelines in place, I certainly go along with this. As a general rule, people whose lives are governed or based on faith will not only do a better job but will not be as susceptible to graft and corruption. I might add, even outside the organizations they represent, people whose lives are faith based will give you more value, more effort and more loyalty than you can get anywhere else.
As I thought about this, I remembered seeing a quote by the Russian novelist Leon Tolstoy (1828-1910) who really hit the nail on the head. He said, "Charity is with one hand I take thousands of dollars from the poor, and with the other I hand back a few dimes." With recent revelations about the United Nations and all the other foreign governments around the world who are receiving government aid from us, we begin to see even more clearly that faith-based organizations could also help distribute this aid more efficiently in many of these countries as well. Of course, this will never happen because it's the biggest system of payola ever devised. Even in our nation, where there is an abundance of faith, much of the money intended to help the poor and needy goes to something we call administration, money skimmed off the top for salaries, rent, telephone, printing and other routine expenses.
The other day a friend sent me a little simile that really gets to the heart of what I am saying. It begins, "The 'Bird Lady' was a difficult, independent, 75-year-old who sat in the park feeding the pigeons every day. One morning she brought with her a whole bun of fresh bread just to feed her daily-feathered friends. Little by little, pinch by pinch, she fed each pigeon with joy. She sat there without being noticed by anyone in the rich, suburban neighborhood. Then suddenly, a man in his early 40's rained on her parade by telling her that she shouldn't throw away good food on a bunch of pigeons that can find food anywhere - when there are a lot of people starving in Africa. Without hesitation the Bird Lady replied angrily, "But I can't throw that far!"
We have all heard the saying, "Charity begins at home." Please don't misunderstand what I am saying. I am not talking about never helping people who are in foreign lands, but I do think we should take care of the poor and needy in our midst as our first priority. I hope you will not take what I am going to say next as bragging, because God knows that I certainly don't mean it that way. We had a major fire in our community several weeks ago that I believe really gets to the heart of how charity or helping others should work. This fire burned down a city-owned apartment complex and left many, many elderly people without a place to live.
The main thing is that everyone got out safe and there were no injuries or loss of life. Praise the Lord, that's first, but most of these elderly people lost everything they owned, including their purses, medication, personal mementos and anything else of value. In most cases all they had were the clothes on their backs. Here is what happened that I believe is the best way to handle any major need in any community, in any country, across the world. We had the best of both worlds: we had the fire and police directly involved, along with our city government plus local agencies, the business community, churches and countless individuals to meet this need.
We all came together, as a community of caring, sharing people and we are still helping these dear folks to get their lives back together. On a personal note, I was so pleased when our mayor and newspaper publisher realized that many of these people had also lost their Bible in the fire and needed to have one at this most difficult time in their lives. I made a few phone calls and learned that the Gideons had already met this need. That's the kind of community we have and I am proud to live here.
If you don't have this kind of community, you can, and all it takes is good leadership and people who really care. Faith based, if you will. What I am saying is the best of all worlds is when the public sector and the private sector can work together to meet the needs of its people. On a larger, worldwide scale, send your money to the mission field in the hands of some faith-based organization you know will give the greatest amount of the gift possible to the people where it was meant to go. The bottom line is to just do what you can. Remember the words of the Bird Lady, "I can't throw that far" and meet the needs where you are.
(Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)