What Effect Will Your Gift Have?

Dec 4, 2017

It is the season of giving. There are toy and coat drives, canned food collections and many ways to give to others.

It feels good to be able to give to others.  What could possibly be wrong with giving to those who we see as less fortunate?

Robert Lupton, in his book Toxic Charity, writes about the father who disappeared out the back door when well-meaning folks from the suburbs brought toys and gifts to his inner-city family at Christmas. The father was embarrassed in front of his wife and children for not being able to provide presents for his family. And the children were being taught that the “good stuff” comes from the rich people out there.   

So Lupton and others started a Christmas Store for the neighborhood. Instead of giving toys and other gifts to the families, they gave them to the store. The store then sold them at 10 cents on the dollar. The store was also run by people who were unemployed in the neighborhood. This allowed the parents to choose and buy their family gifts while preserving their dignity.

Lupton has created an “Oath of Compassionate Service.” The oath includes: Never do for others what they have the capacity to do for themselves. Limit one-way giving to emergencies. Seek ways to empower through employment, lending, and investing. Listen closely to those we seek to help.

Next time before giving, stop and consider: Will this do more harm than good?

I am Dan Kenney, and that is my perspective.