Toxic Charity

The words “toxic” and “charity” have differing connotations that I would never think to use together.  Associating the generous, kind, selfless acts of charity with toxicity seemed contradictory and inflammatory as I judged Robert Lupton’s book by its cover.  Little did I know what repercussions charitable work can have on the very ones you are trying to help.    

After reading Toxic Charity I still am inspired to perform charitable works.  I have always been quick to give handouts to the homeless throughout my hometown and where I travel.  I tend to stay away from those who have signs and are simply “begging” for money, and focus on those who do not ask.  They seem to be the ones who are honest and too proud to stoop to beg.  I believe those who don’t ask really need some assistance to get back on their feet, and are willing to do whatever it takes.

I will always have the desire to lend a hand to those in need.  But I will take a direct approach towards it.  My family always adopts a family through our church during the holiday season.  The joy the children will have when they wake up to presents Christmas morning is the only thing most people consider.  We forget to realize how this assistance affects the mother and father.  As portrayed in this book, the father who could not provide presents for his kids had to step out of the room because he could not handle it.  Either parent would feel so ashamed that they could not provide for their family, and could not put the smile, they were witnessing, on their child’s face.  If you wanted to be proactive, you could satisfy both the kid and parent’s needs.  I agree with the idea of providing temporary employment in exchange for money during the holidays, such as yard work, maintenance, etc.  Then the parents feel proud that they can personally pick out presents that they earned from their hard work.  This instills new motivation and drive. 

Top down charity does not always work.  You have people who take advantage and become dependent of others.  This wasteful charity can be witnessed on the international level, such as the “never-ending relief” for Haiti.  Initial relief after a disaster is necessary, but “when relief does not transition to development in a timely way, compassion becomes toxic” (7).

The average committed social advocate can continue performing charitable work, but needs to live by “The Oath for Compassionate Service”.  Of course it is much easier to donate money, receive your warm and fuzzy feeling, and be done with it.  However, true change comes from the commitment and the determination to see a cause to the end. 

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Chinese Proverb


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