charity and investment, is the picture really that clear?

“Charity” has become a less than honorable word of late in the NGO world.  I understand that “giving” someone something risks the danger of creating dependency. while the better gift is providing the resources for  people to use their own skills, ingenuity and strength to enable them to pull themselves up from poverty through  their own hard work. 

But in our lives we all have to have people who sacrifice to provide for us along the way.  I think of the example of parents and college kids.  Parents love their children and want the best for them.  So we go into great debt to provide the opportunity for those skills and talents our children have to be fine tuned so that they can indeed find a good job to build their future on.  The last time I looked no checks were being deposited in my bank account from our  3 kids.  I am not holding my breath awaiting such a response.  It is not expected and giving this gift and seeing them prosper is the only payback I want for myself.    However, to the purists in the NGO world I ask:  When I put my 3 kids through college was that “charity” or an “investment”? 

We also need to realize that the answer in large part depends on what they do with the gift.  I am blessed because my kids studied hard, achieved much and are happily and gainfully employed.  So maybe the gift was an investment for me!,  as they are off the family dole and independent.   It seems to me the debate about “charity” or “investment” is not so simple and depends on what the recipient does with what is supplied to him or her.  Sadly in this world there are those people who receive the gift and choose the life of dependency.  As long as people will provide for me, I choose the easy life of living off their hard work and giving.  Thankfully, others use the gift to pull themselves up to a higher standard.  So maybe how we see charity and investment depends on what the recipient does with it,  I am happy to say that the if Foundation seeks to provide the means for people who need a head start to choose to better themselves to enable them to have a better future.   We are currently providing breakfast free of charge to school kids in Haiti.  It is a great free gift.  Charity or investment?  They do not pay.  To some reading this, the breakfast program would be charity and the Haitian parents are already saying please do not bring this valued program to an end.  The seeds of dependency have been planted.  But if the children show they can do better in school because they are not falling asleep in class (many are up very early in the morning to do chores before school and get no food/energy), then maybe what we are doing is not at all charity, but a great investment.  The truth is we all need people who will do speicalthings for us with no strings attached, expecting no pay back.  Thanks to many of you who are supporting our breakfast program, this gift to them may just be what makes them do better in school, a very worthy investment indeed.  Just maybe it depends on them and what they do with the gift they are receiving.

Fr. Byrum

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