I've been involved in benevolent projects for many years. Most of these efforts have been buying and distributing food and clothes for the very poor. In recent years I have been involved in Safe Fresh water wells for rural South Africa. As long as I live I will be involved in some type of Christian related humanitarian project at some level. I don't regret being connected to doing something to help people who are hurting. There is a tremendous blessing that comes through handing a kid a new pair of athletic shoes or a new coat. I wish I could do more.
The problem is that charity is not the answer. It helps. It's just not the answer.
I would take one small factory hiring one hundred people in a county over 50 charities in a county. A paycheck is always better than a handout. One factory or any employer hiring one hundred people at a reasonable salary is better than a bunch a little charities raking and scraping to keep a light bulb burning at their local food bank. Unfortunately, too many of these charities are visited once or more a month by low paid workers who simply cannot survive on $8 an hour. Thus, you have the unemployed and the working poor who keep the food pantries open and scurrying for funds to buy cheap food from a larger national network chain. Overall, America must have higher wages. We hear too much about sticking higher wages to a few certain corporations. However, we must bring real paying jobs back to America from coast to coast.
Sadly, I can go back to the same places where food and clothes have been disbursed and nothing has changed. The same little shacks with the same families live inside. As I have heard, give a man a fish and you'll feed him again and again. Teach him to fish and he will feed himself.
Non-profits need to focus on creating some jobs for their communities. I realize this is seldom seen as a mission of some such entities but it's way past time as our nation struggles economically. Most churches have idle space Monday through Saturday. Why not help a small business or two get on their feet? Cheap rent and a little congregational support might enable somebody to get started in a business that might eventually hire others. Years ago, one of our local churches put in a Subway restaurant as a way to help church members have employment. Churches have to do more than just plan the next potluck dinner. What if your church or nonprofit could help a few people out of unemployment? Surely, this would be the beginning path to a brighter life. Also think about how you might help others educationally. You could provide a free internet café with some weekly adult education. Please know there are lots of people out there in your community who do not know how to do anything. Some training might save them and a future generation.
If you are feeling entrepreneurial start something that hires people. When Friday comes everybody will be better off if you are handing out paychecks instead of free soup and sandwiches. Charity helps but it's not the answer.
Glenn Mollette is an syndicated columnist and author of 11 books and read in all 50 states. This column does not necessarily reflect the view of this paper.