Changing an impersonal disaster: applying lessons from the past to today's world
Government assistance has become an impersonal disaster. Distributing handouts without caution or care, Washington is discouraging self-sufficiency and wasting resources. At the same time, we're failing to provide the poor a way out and helping dig a deeper hole.
Successful charity depends on careful distribution and a pointed perseverance. To help the poor help themselves is the ultimate goal, not distribute handouts that demean the recipient and encourage idleness. "Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime."
The way charities did it over 100 years ago provides a guide for today. If we learn from the past and apply our knowledge to a changing world, we're one step ahead. Ignoring the past will force us to learn the same lessons all over again.
Earlier in our country's history, a good charity has several methods to maximize resources, save money, and provide the best help possible. First, they would determine if the person requesting assistance was one of the helpless poor (those that cannot provide for themselves). If so, they would support the person, and help the recipient find ways to help the charity and others.
If the poor person did have a capability to work, he or she would prove their ability and desire to work and provide for themselves and their families. Usually, a man would split wood for the charity (providing fuel for the mission and the helpless poor). A woman would go to the craft room and sew clothing and material for the Red Cross.
If the person demonstrated that they worked hard, the charity would help them find a job and give them room and board until they could get back on their feet.
Personal care and looking at a person's attitude can determine if someone wants to change. If the individual doesn't want to change, it's useless to try to help, and encourages idleness. Aiding others is helping them help themselves, not distributing free gifts. Most poor people want to change, they just need a hand to get back on their feet. That's what real charity is. Misguided giving is more dangerous and worse than not helping at all.
I think the US government needs to follow a similar plan to reform welfare. We need to help those who are ready for assistance and really want to change. Don't want to work for a better life? Then you shouldn't be rewarded for idleness. Health care, welfare, and other government assistance programs would greatly benefit from personal attention to and selection of the worthy, hard working poor.