I was recently asked to make a talk about motherhood. While I am waiting for more info about what those folks want me to say, here’s a post I wrote on the subject about a decade ago.
A friend who works on the staff of a large church recommended this book to me, and while it lacks sufficient support for some of the concepts, the principles are sound. Basically, the title says it pretty well—whether just throwing money or a week of unpaid labor at poverty—this act of charity might do more harm than good.
Author Robert D. Lupton has plenty of experience in urban ministry, and he cites many examples from his experience in Atlanta, Georgia, which is where he lives and works. But, as I have seen lots of churches gather a group of volunteers for week long “mission trips” I was fascinated by the story of a church in Mexico that was painted six times during one summer, by six different sets of volunteers. Indeed, what the author terms “religious tourism” is big business. He states that in 2005, $2.4 billion was spent by 1.6 million Americans, who traveled abroad for short term mission trips. My favorite statistic: “The Bahamas, it is estimated, annually receives one short-term missionary for every fifteen residents.” Okay, I have never traveled abroad on a mission trip, but the Bahamas sounds like a great place to visit. (My daughter mentioned knowing of a local church that did a mission trip to Ireland. Sounds heavenly!)
Lest readers get the idea that all Lupton does is make the good hearted look either mis-guided or just plain stupid, he does mention that many people set out on these trips with good intentions. Then he explains that in the third world, a little bit of money spent properly can do quite a lot. He explains the use of “micro loans” which can give a struggling person a needed hand up. For example, a $50 loan to a woman in Nicaragua allowed her to buy a sewing machine so she could ramp up her production of baby clothes. Once she paid off the loan, she still had the increased earning capacity.
In the U.S. many churches and other charities give away certain items. One example was giving holiday presents to needy families, but the fathers in such situations are often embarrassed that they can’t match the generosity of the well meaning givers, and are thus emasculated in front of their wives and children. Another example was a food bank, wherein the recipients had come to view the handouts as entitlements, which the author then contrasted with a food co-op, where members paid a small ($3) membership fee, and the members then gathered food from free or discounted sources, set their own rules for distribution, and so forth. The co-op helped the members but did not demean them or destroy their work ethic.
Toxic Charity is a bit controversial, but the U.S.A. is one of the most generous nations which has ever graced this planet. Unfortunately, just throwing money at problems can actually make things worse. This book is a must read for anyone who is involved in charity work, faith based or not, because it explains the problem but gives some good guidelines for better ways to help without hurting the recipient or wasting effort and money.
The other day, hubby and I were eating at a favorite restaurant near our home. While perusing the menu, I noted that they now serve the “Impossible Burger” for $15. To be fair, that includes “free” salad and a side, but it struck me as a high price for a fake burger. I’m actually a fan of a good black bean burger, but these new fangled burgers (such as the Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat) purport themselves to be equal in taste and texture to beef. But I wasn’t too keen on spending $15 when I could get a nice salmon fillet with two sides for $12, so we didn’t try it that day.
However, after church today, we went to a fast food restaurant. That’s quite unusual for us, but hey, I got to try an Impossible Burger for a possible price. The B&K palace we visited was one of a series of fast food joints along a busy highway, so they had customers, but not too many. We ordered the meal (a golly whopping 900+ calories) which includes a small drink and fries. BTW, neither the drink nor the fries didn’t seem all that small to me, but the gal at the counter seemed surprised that we didn’t take the 30 cent upgrade to medium.
Hubby looked a bit skeptical, but I dug in immediately. Low and behold the Impossible “Whopper” tastes quite a lot like any old fast food burger—nothing outstanding, but just fine for the price paid. Anyway, the burger seemed a bit thinner than I remember for a whopper, but the condiments and bun made it a substantial sandwich, which we ate without cheese, as there seemed to be sufficient calories without that addition. The fries were good and crisp, and I ate half of them before shoving them across the table for hubby to finish.
My Fitness Pal tells me that I’ve just about eaten all I should for this day, but I can now say I’ve tried one of the latest innovations in food, and it is okay…as long as one has enough calories left to enjoy the thing. Oh, and I do recommend trying it at Burger King, because we both ate for the price of one at our local sit down and get waited on favorite.
When I was a young girl, my mother always went into our yard and plucked roses for us to wear on Mother’s Day. Until I reached my tenth birthday, she wore a red rose, as I did. But that year, she went to another bush and selected a delicate white rose with just a hint of pink. As a curious youngster, I asked her why she did not wear one of “Nanny’s roses” since our red rose bush had grown from a cutting of the ones which graced my paternal grandmother’s yard.
She gently reminded me that Grandma Blackstock had died, so she was now supposed to wear a white rose. My red one told the world, or our small church, that my mother lived.
Fast forward more than forty years, and I stood in church today, the same church, but in a much larger building with a congregation ten times larger; and after hearing our three ministers all tout the virtues of motherhood, I looked around to see if anyone was wearing a rose. Across three rows of pews, I saw two ladies wearing florist created white corsages. None of the ladies around me wore roses, of any color, and my yard does not even have a white rose bush. My jacket today was a mosaic of white roses, but I rather doubt that anyone noticed.
Maybe I should plant a white rose bush, because I can’t live through a mother’s day without remembering my wonderful mother, who wore a white rose out of respect for her mom.