Tuesday, September 2, 2014

I give with no strings attached

By the Rev. Jeff Irwin

I was not going to send this letter, figuring that the “homeless” issue in our town was being discussed thoughtfully and without scapegoating people on our streets by our community, but the recurring headlines, data-gathering and anecdotal storytelling have prompted me to send this in. I wrote the following in response to the first article The Enterprise offered on this issue.

What wonderful news. Davis has generous and well-meaning citizens. I would be alarmed if the opposite were true, that Davis has tight-fisted and ill-meaning citizens.

A headline that states “No Handouts for Homeless on Street” seems to me dangerous talk. If someone believes we have a need for more funding for programs that help the homeless because there is evidence that there are more citizens in need of those programs, then kindly ask us givers for more funds. We are generous and well-meaning; I would hope we would reach into our pockets and give the programs something.

Why am I being asked to not do the same to persons directly? The people I meet appear to have no money and need some. I have money so I give them some of it. That seems like a good thing. I don’t ask them what they plan on spending it on, or what they need it for, or why they need it. I give it because I have some and they need some. It works out nicely that way.

Now, if I wanted to attach some requirements for the use of the money I give, then I suppose I could. I suppose I could hand them the money and say, “Now go spend this on something I would like you to spend it on.” But I don’t.

The money I have been given in my life hasn’t come that way. The few dollars in my birthday card from my grandmother that gave me such a thrill when I was a child, gifts of cash from relatives and friends, even my paychecks — in all of these I was never asked to use the money given for something the giver requested.

Some people just give to others. I guess I am one of those. I also give to organizations and programs, things and people I believe in. But mostly I give without the expectation of something in return or that the gift needs to be earned. It wouldn’t be a gift if it was earned by some behavior or accomplishment; instead, it would be a reward. Is the problem that my gift is gracious? Oh my, I hope not.

Now it appears I am being asked to be an obstacle for people who have no money. That seems odd. I imagine even more wonderful news about the citizens of Davis. That when we place money in someone’s hand with no strings attached it gives even more of us the chance to give thanks in some way.

— The Rev. Jeff Irwin is a Davis resident.



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