Like many others, I’m torn during the holiday season between need and greed.
Not my own; I don’t need or want much of anything.
No, the needs I’m thinking of are from those in the community served by all the programs that provide gifts to those considered needy.
We all respond to varying degrees. Any response is perfectly OK; charity isn’t charity if it isn’t voluntary. That’s the difference between a bundle of toys from the Columbia County Foundation for Children and a welfare check: one is freely given from those who freely donate, while the other is given out by a government middleman who first took it from you under threat of force.
All who give probably have wondered whether recipients truly are needy, and questioned how many of them are just grubbing for handouts.
We’ve heard the stories, for example, of James Brown Thanksgiving turkey giveaway recipients who have walked around the corner to sell the bird for a few liquor-store bucks.
That’s one of the reasons the Brown family this year started requiring a photo ID (and along with it, rebuking those whining about having to show an ID when voting). They added that requirement for toy recipients from their Christmas giveaway, too.
Several of the agencies I’ve talked to say they try to screen recipients to make sure they aren’t double- and triple-dipping, but this world is an ugly place sometimes. Once all those toys and gifts are collected, they’re handed over to the mother (and/or occasionally a father) to distribute to the children. Do you ever wonder if some of those toys wind up on a flea-market table? Do you question whether the kid asking for a bike isn’t on several different lists thanks to an aggressively greedy parent, who can turn the extra bikes into pawn-shop cash?
The danger of over-thinking all this, of course, is that someone will suggest turning all the names over to some centralized agency so each recipient gets just one whack at the Christmas pinata. Pretty soon, you’ve got coercive government taking over from charities.
Come to think of it, we’ve already done that. Way back when, people who were down on their luck relied on the good graces of their neighbors to get by when times were tough. Just as important, it also meant those recipients, in the interest of self-preservation, had an incentive to be good neighbors.
However, once the government takes over and starts pulling the money out of your pocket to give to the next guy, that recipient no longer has a reason to strive for community approval. He just has to make sure that coercive government has plenty of like-minded people who keep the pocket-to-pocket pipeline open – even if that means showing an ID when he votes for them.
And humility? Forget it.
Still, if for no reason other than to exercise free will in the face of increasing government control, it’s good to not only be generous during the holidays, but to just not worry too much about whether recipients are more greedy than needy. At least the giving still is voluntary.
And so is the gratitude. Thanks, everyone, for a great Christmas season.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/