The quote below is from the video, Make the Homeless Smile, which has had hundreds of thousands hits on YouTube. The video is at the end of this posting, made by two wonderful young men. Some people may not like this video; they might say, what good does it do to give a homeless person some food, a shirt, or a drink? The next day they will still be homeless or hungry. What good does it do, some might say, to make a homeless person smile? Odd, though, I have not heard people ask, what good does it do to just walk on by the homeless?
Bissell Centre works during a time where “charity” or “being charitable” is under significant scrutiny and in many cases criticism. Many who work in the charitable sector are calling for dramatic change because charitable actions have not, in their minds, been good enough, have not led to systemic change. In other words helping the poor has been a failure because people are still poor.
I agree that we must constantly seek out better or new ways to not only help the disadvantaged but also change policies and practices that perpetuate poverty, homelessness, and other nefarious conditions in our world, our country, our provinces and cities, and down the street from where we live. But being charitable is not the problem. Charity is not a failure. It is not something to be transformed into something else.
It is not something to replace with an innovative program or intricate logic models or results based funding. Charity is not a thing. It is something within us that we either embrace or ignore. I suggest, for most people, it is a fundamental aspect of who we are and wish to be: being charitable is a human attribute and force. The question is how do work together to manifest that energy in ways that have optimum impact. How do we integrate our shared value into government policies, in how our faith communities live their faith, how neighbours interact, and how helping organizations help?
Who among us will proclaim that it is wrong to feed the hungry because tomorrow they will be hungry again? It is the very fact that being hungry today and tomorrow and the next day and the next is a reality that calls us to muster our charitable inclinations and work harder, be open to new ideas, and allow ourselves the opportunities to continue to act with benevolence and goodwill toward others. But never should that calling include rejecting being charitable in the moment or debunking charitable actions that do not by themselves solve social problems.
We ought not criticize these two incredible young men for helping others as they are in this video. We should be inspired by them. I am. I am pretty sure you will be, too.