Years ago I watched a black and white movie about a very rich man who took compassion for the homeless in his town. Back then they were simply called bums, but that would be insensitive of me to point that fact out, so maybe I won’t. It implies they don’t or didn’t want to earn something and hence the term “bum something” came about. “Hey, buddy, can I bum a smoke?” or “May I bum a ride?” The implication of the term meant it was a temporary situation, while most times it was perpetual and everyone knew it.
“What do you want to do today?” was a common catchphrase and usually answered like this: “Let’s just bum around.” Or maybe this variation, “I’m just going to sit on my bum all day.” Anyway, back to the movie. It was close to Thanksgiving or maybe Christmas and very cold with snow on the ground. The rich man had a pocket full of hundred dollar bills and began circulating among the downtrodden transients and handing each one, one Benjamin. Now back in the 1920’s, this was a lot of money, enough to get these people off the streets for maybe a couple of months.
This went well for a few moments until they attacked him and after beating him senseless, they relieved him of not only his money, but most of his warm clothing. Were they inherently criminal? Nope; greed took them over and they became a school of sharks and instead of simply feeding, they devoured their savior. Now imagine if this happened once a week. They would never have to work, because a good Samaritan would always rescue them.
Now imagine this scenario; you’ve been working all your life to get ahead and better your family’s well being. You pay taxes and make the monthly mortgage note on your 2-story house with 4 bedrooms. You struggle at times to have 2 extra cents for entertainment, but manage to pay your insurance, utility bills, and the myriad of other charges that come with owning a home and keeping groceries on the table.
Seeing that you and your mate both work and the kids are busy with extra curricular activities, you don’t realize an uninvited family has moved into your spare bedroom. They live off your lavish abundance, consume your groceries, and pay no utilities or taxes and come to find out; they are getting a stipend each month from your bank account! The sad thing is, you probably would have helped them if it would have been your choice to make.
So, you call a family meeting and bring in your parents and brothers and sisters and their spouses, to help you “rid yourself of these parasites”, as you call them. Imagine your surprise and disgust when half of your family decides the problem is too big and as a solution actually side with the intruders. The other half wants to physically remove them regardless if there is a fight or not. So, a stalemate is reached and you are forced to do nothing and let them stay for the time being. However, the side effect of this is a deep division in your family and you are stuck with the bill as the intruding family keeps growing. On top of everything else, one of the women has a baby and claims it is now part of your family and has legal rights to be there.
Being generous should be a choice we make, not something that should be taken for granted. The rich man had no idea he was walking into the jaws of a tiger and the homeowner was equally oblivious that his apparent abundance would be taken advantage of. I think both examples are quite obvious that generosity and accumulation can be misconstrued to be a pot of gold there for the taking. However, is it? Of course it is not. How many times have we said that we will give the shirt off our back to those in need, but danged if I will let them steal, rob, or take it without my permission? Generosity is a one way street with a fortunate soul at the end. It is not a slippery slope where those of us with a few pleasures are stripped as we slide past those who don’t.
On the other hand, trolling people for a handout when you can work simply makes you, yes, a bum and in the old sense of the word. We cannot save the world and I’m not saying we shouldn’t have programs to help the down trodden or people seeking a better way of life. They need to come to the front door instead of the back entrance and stand in line. Civilized people stand in lines. Then at this time, we can decide just how generous we can afford to be. There is no other way.