Friday, January 16, 2009

Generosity and Compassion...not superiority

Recently, I heard of an article which ran as an op-ed in the New York Times. The writer of this article (SONJA LYUBOMIRSKY, in the interests of proper source citation) has this to say:

"...Findings like these reveal an all-too-human truth. We care more about social comparison, status and rank than about the absolute value of our bank accounts or reputations.
For example, Andrew Clark, an economist in France, has recently shown that being laid off hurts less if you live in a community with a high unemployment rate. What’s more, if you are unemployed, you will, on average, be happier if your spouse is unemployed, too.
So in a world in which just about all of us have seen our retirement savings and home values plummet, it’s no wonder that we all feel surprisingly O.K."

I.e. The reason we aren't panicking in despair and making a run on our bank isn't because we've decided not to make the mistakes made in the Great Depression, but instead it is because we're okay with being in a recession, as long as everyone else is hurting too...

The reason I am haunted by this article is that I am offended on behalf of every person who comes to the door with a donation. Today, for example, we had several calls from people concerned about the cold weather. They wondered if we had a need of coats for those who come to the shelter; they were going through their closets to get all the extra coats and warm jackets they could find. A man dropped by and left a blanket. He didn't want a receipt; he didn't leave a name. Just a blanket. A woman dropped off 71 hand crocheted neck warmers and made sure to point out some people waiting outside our doors who could use one right away.

This isn't an unusual occurrence. For us it happens every day. So I'm supposed to believe we live in a magic bubble where people are concerned about those who are less fortunate, no matter that they too are in need? Or am I supposed to believe that the woman living on social security who sends us two dollars every month is only doing so out of a sense of superiority?

Yes, I am offended. On behalf of all those who give so generously and with such compassion. The Mission may not have the voice of the New York Times, but we do want our supporters, and the many in this country who give so generously to service agencies like ours, to know that we see your generosity. We understand that our country is great because of that generosity. Thank you on behalf of all whom you help. And God bless you.

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