Where is the spirit of giving?


There is something truly special about this time of year, as we, as a nation, seem to recognize that this is the season for giving. Many of us are blessed in that despite difficult financial circumstances, we still have the ability to give something – even if it is a simple card. Recently, I had a conversation that motivated me to come out of my self-imposed sabbatical and write this article on giving.

I had a conversation with a close family member regarding what to do about a townhouse that we were having trouble selling. Knowing that we had been burned several times by tenants, she suggested that my husband and I rent to someone with Section 8 because it was “guaranteed money” from the federal government.

My first thought was, “No, the government doesn’t have any money — it takes it from taxpayers.”

Sensing my hesitancy, she interjected, “Oh, that’s right, you are a conservative, you don’t believe in that sort of thing. Well, what if it was a single mom who really needed the place, would you really reject her?”

I was stunned not only by the question and its insinuation, but especially because it was coming from this person.

I tried explaining to this family member that being conservative does not mean I don’t care about people. I reminded her of the many times my husband and I have made sacrifices to help desperate families like her hypothetical single mom, even at times when we could not afford it, but God brought us through.

I shared with her that I was not against the mom, I just questioned whether or not I wanted to be a part of a government system that, rather than helping people, all too often seems to exploit them and make them dependent on the “help,” rather than incentivize them to become self-sufficient.

When I work as hard as I do, I would rather give my money to my local church and charities that specialize in helping people like this single mom everyday, face-to-face, and far more cost effectively.

To me, this seems like a better option than handing over my money to a federal government that has just accumulated over $18 trillion in debt (increasing over $8 trillion and by more than 70 percent just in the past six years) and a U.S. Congress that seems to be passing, in bi-partisan fashion, a spending bill of over $1 trillion to fund the federal government (not state and local governments) for just one year.

Given that the majority of the funds used to pay for services that we tend to think about when one says “government” (e.g., local schools, police and fire departments, infrastructure like roads and bridges) are funded primarily through state and local taxes, I am amazed how so few people ask the simple question, where else is our federal taxpaying money going? How much of it goes directly to the “single moms” of this nation, and how much goes to support the federal government bureaucracy? Wouldn’t local-based organizations be more efficient at giving of themselves and meeting the needs of this single mom?

Unfortunately, my points seemed to fall on deaf ears as I spoke to this family member. And I came to two sad revelations. The first revelation is that political stereotypes are, indeed, a powerful thing. They can cause citizens to believe the worst about each other — even amongst family members.

My second sad revelation is that many citizens are predisposed to socialist or even communist notions of the role of government.

Like my family member, there is a presumption that unless the federal government is the primary vehicle to address all of our needs, then any “private-based” solutions are invalid.

This was so ironic to me, for private enterprises and organizations like FedEx, Amazon.com, and charities like the Salvation Army, Samaritan’s Purse, and the Red Cross meet the needs of millions with amazing commitment, reliability, and are more cost-effective.

At the end of the day, the question essentially becomes a question of faith. Do we believe that the citizens of this nation are capable of giving to support the needs of citizens like the hypothetical single mom?

There are many who do not believe this, and by their own positions seem to trust more in the efficiency and charity of the federal government rather than this nation’s citizens to give on an ongoing basis to meet the needs of others.

However, one only has to look around, especially at this time of year, to see the giving spirit that resides in the hearts of the American people. By the grace of God we are a blessed and generous people who have always risen to the occasion to give.

So, to all the churches, charities, and individual citizens who have reached out to others – thank you for proving over and over again that we are a giving nation!

[Bonnie B. Willis is co-founder of The Willis Group, LLC, a Learning, Development, and Life Coaching company here in Fayette County and lives in Fayetteville along with her husband and their five children.]