Marv Mithcell has worked for the past eight years as a volunteer and board member for four non-profits that work with low-income and no-income residents of Downtown Portland.
What is Dangerous Compassion? How can compassion be dangerous?
Dangerous Compassion is giving “help” that doesn’t really help. Giving with no regard for the results. One form of dangerous compassion is spontaneous charity. Money given on the street is not used for food. There was an OD last week just across the street from our place of hospitality. Whoever gave him money, hoping it would help, was dead wrong.
What should I do when confronted by a demand for money?
Know that the person asking does this all the time. The message on the cardboard sign or the story of need is market-tested. Don't surrender to manipulation. Don't surrender to extortion. There are free services all ‘round town. Money given on the street often enables continued destructive behavior. There are other ways to give that truly help people change their lives.
What is Guilt-edged Giving?
In that moment of silence after the ‘ask’ we may feel like a deer in the headlights - “I have so much, this person needs my help, I must show compassion.” Ask yourself, “Why am I giving? Do I feel guilt because this person APPEARS to be needy? How will money help? Will this help her make positive changes? “ We give from a feeling of guilt. That’s ‘Guilt-edged Giving.’ Guilt-edged Giving is not the answer. You're not a bad person if you don't give.
Isn’t there a better way?
Remember the old Chinese proverb - Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. Know what your donation will do. The best way to give real help is by providing opportunity, not charity. Opportunity for change, opportunity to accept responsibility. Charity is demeaning to both parties. The giver assumes no responsibility for what the gift provides, the recipient takes no responsibility for how it is used.
How can I know if my giving will help?
Spend the time and effort to discover how what you give can truly help your neighbors in need. Know what your donation will do. Ask your friends and co-workers for ideas of grass-roots organizations they know and trust. Established non-profits will stretch your dollars, They know how to purchase. They know how to provide. They know how to distribute. Would you rather have your $5 buy one hit of heroin, or provide 200 pounds of food for your neighbors in need? That’s what we bought with $5 last week.
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