December 07, 2005

Of Bread and Men

Sarah of That's Not Very Nice, had a little rant about charitable abuses during the holidays and I couldn't let it go. Riddle me this: If you were hungry, had no food for your baby and someone was offering free-day old bread to you, would you take it?

This year has been tight for the Oddybobo family. We have seen our shares of the downers the past two years and it also happens to be significantly colder than this time last year.

As you may recall, my little sister is going through a rather bitter divorce. She has one child, he is three. I love this child as if he were my own. As such, whenever he needs for anything, I try to provide it. You see, his father cares for himself only and lets the needs and wants of his child fall to the wayside.
This year, however, I cannot do for my nephew as I would like.

To make matters worse, asshat brother-in-law isn't paying his court mandated child and spousal support. Add to that a seasonal shutdown at her job, and you get broke. Now, my sister isn't the poster child for thrift. She has made many mistakes and is likely to make more. What she has wanted more than anything in her short life is to have a home with a yard for her son. Her soon-to-be ex would not provide that for her. My family has.

With the lack of funds, the sudden cold weather and a myriad of bills said ex has stuck her with, my sister is beyond broke. I bought her heating oil this week because they had none and I couldn't let my nephew freeze.

Because my sister works full-time at a very good job, she doesn't qualify for any public assistance, including heating assisstance. So, it was with great reluctance that she visited a local charity late one evening last week.

This charity receives a donation of day old bread from the local supermarket. My sister, having not even .99 cents to buy a loaf of bread and nearly nothing to eat at home, eagerly took some of this bread. She was approached by someone working for the charity who asked an odd question. "Why did you take that bread?" Now, the obvious answer is because it is free . . . but what this woman wanted to know was what the motivation was.

My sister explained her dire situation to this young lady. She was told that of all the people who had come for assistance that day, and indeed in many preceeding weeks, she was the only one to take the offered bread. Apparently day old bread is not up to snuff for the supposed "poor".

My sister explained that she would gladly take the bread as it would constitute her and her son's meal for that evening. She also said that at this point, she was there to beg and that she would take anything they could give her.

The young lady next told my sister that of all the people who had sought assistance in the proceeding weeks, she was the only one with a job, with the drive to make a better life for her son and the humility to accept that which was graciously offered to her, rather than the audacity to demand assistance.

My sister only wants to provide for her son. She cannot even afford gifts for Christmas (though I have made sure that he is without want). What she could buy this year was one gift - a pair of mittens so that his hands were covered in the snow. This young charity worker put my nephew on a gift list to ensure he has a christmas. She also made sure that a local catholic charity new of my sister's financial needs so that she has heating oil this winter. My sister hasn't asked for much, just enough to bridge the gap. Her son needs to be warm and fed, she would gladly go without to make sure that happens.

Now comes my question. What possesses an individual to seek charitable or government assistance only to turn their nose at what is offered? Seriously, I know it happens everyday. I recognize the abuses and realize that our society, with all its "social programs" has created this race of individuals who believe that they have entitlements. But what possesses a person to turn their nose at charitable giving? The saddest part is that those who work tirelessly for these charities recognize it too. They see that they are being taken advantage of but have the grace to allow it to happen in the hopes that something good comes from their help.

Having been in dire straits before, I recognize the need to accept with graciousness the charity of others. I cannot fathom demanding certain toys, foodstuffs, or assistance from those who give so freely. What have we done in this country to create such an air of superiority in those people who claim a need?

My sister is scraping bottom, accepting what little is offered with humility and grace and vowing to make a better life for herself and her son. The boost she is getting from this charity over this winter will put her in a position to fend for herself completely later-at least that is my hope. Their help won't be forgotten. As an aside, impressed with my sister's attitude, the charity has given her enough groceries to get through the holidays so that she can concentrate on removing herself from the debt abyss she is perilously close to falling into. And they will be checking with her periodically to lend personal as well as charitible support if needed. She has said she won't take advantage of their kindness and is only accepting the help to ensure her son's welfare.

I wonder, if those who walk through the doors demanding assistance but turning up their nose at free bread feel the same way.

Posted by Oddybobo at December 7, 2005 06:22 PM | TrackBack

Your sister sounds like a more realistic person then what most of us working with and for charities have seen. At work we are doing a gifts for kids things, the gift list these parents have sent us for their kids are unreasonable. Stuff like xbox 360's, leap frog learning tables, PSPs, NintendoDS, etc.

There is having a good christmas and then having a fabulous christmas. Hell, my oldest boy is getting a PSP. My wife worked her but off on OT to buy it for him.

Posted by: Contagion at December 7, 2005 07:31 PM

The flip side of this is that many other charities might not have offered the help your sister needs because she appears to be better off than many (since she has a job and a place to live).

Thank God for Angels like that woman at the charity who are offering a hand up rather than a hand out, and I wish your sister much luck and a good lawyer in getting out from under her ex. And God bless your sister for having her head screwed on straight.

Posted by: caltechgirl at December 7, 2005 08:20 PM

It's the total removal of all judgement from society, Oddy. By making all positions equal, by claiming that everyone is just as "right" as everyone else, there is no such thing as shame any more.

When I was growing up, it was completely embarassing to accept government handouts. You really were looked down upon if you did it willingly. Most of the people I knew would rather be homeless on the street than accept government money -- and that was in the NorthEast.

Now, however, society has said that you cannot judge people -- so if someone demands that you provide them housing and shelter and they don't want to work for it, YOU are the bad guy if you question it.

Hard work used to be a reward unto itself. Today's society has changed so that hard work is now "stupid." And yes, society is very wrong.

Posted by: Ogre at December 8, 2005 07:14 AM

My ex-sister-in-law turned down a program that would provide her with groceries because there was too much paperwork. Took too much time. Now she is telling my 9 year old niece to forget about college because they are poor and poor people don't go to college. The only reason they are poor is because she is too lazy to work. She just accepts it. My fear is that my niece will be that way too. I try my best to inspire her to do more with her life and will do what I need to do to help and encourage her. I just don't understand that mind-set. How could someone not want what is best for their child. At least your sister has her focus in the right place.

Posted by: adamboysmom at December 8, 2005 08:36 AM

Some people won't take free bread because it's a day old? Good grief. Around here, an "outlet" bakery actually *SELLS* (at a reduced price, but still) day-old bread.

And if you don't eat the whole loaf the first day, what's the dif anyway?

Good luck and God bless to your sister and to you.

Posted by: Jenna at December 8, 2005 12:42 PM

It's a culture of entitlement where people have abdicated their sense of a need to provide for themselves and see the government/other people as having a responsibility to do's grown adults acting like dependent children.

Just MHO, and since I've worked for years with poverty programs, I think it's probably the correct answer.

Kudos to you for doing what all families should: taking care of their own.

Posted by: trouble at December 8, 2005 12:58 PM

So many things ran through my mind. But overall, I am happy YOU are able to help at all and offer to do so. I am also relieved your sister was willing to accept help so her son would be better off. Good luck.

Posted by: vw bug at December 8, 2005 02:16 PM

Many things ran through my head too... but let me look in my crystal ball, for I do believe that I see that your sister will remember those who helped and will return the good deed 10 fold when she can. That's my prediction. She sounds like a good woman.

Posted by: Bou at December 8, 2005 10:28 PM

I agree with the above comments--it's a sense of entitlement that has pervaded this country, as well as the idea that no one can judge another. Turning down free food because it isn't what you would buy if you had the cash is not only foolhardy, it's disturbing. Another thing I find amazing is that one can purchase cigarettes and candy (to name a couple of items) with food stamps but NOT paper goods such as TP and napkins. What's up with that?

Your story about your sister was very touching. Bless you for helping her to help herself (and her son) and I hope she is able to dig herself out of her predicament soon.

Posted by: Pam M. at December 8, 2005 10:29 PM

I can't add to the comments above - right on target.

I am blessed with a good job and no dependants (I do have one dog). Every year for the past 6 or 7, I have "adopted" a family. Actually, for the past 4, I have adopted 2 families. The reason? I find that I usually get a family that seems to think that even when told there is a budget per person (the idea being you can adopt more people - gasp - rather than overload on a few), that it is perfectly appropriate to ask for items like PS2, Xbox, a laptop, etc.

By adopting two families, I have attempted to improve my chances of getting a family in true need. I have always been fortunate to get another family - very gracious and not at all greedy. They are the ones I will overspend on - something happens to me when all they ask for is socks, undies and a sweatshirt for the kiddies. Not Christmas - so I do what is asked, and then continue with something that is just for the joy of the child. And it is THE BEST thing I am ever able to do.

Sad that I need to adopt two families to ensure that this happens... Sigh. Also sad because the fact that there are slackers who turn down day old bread makes it possible for many people to ignore the fact that there is real need to help folks who are trying to better their situations.

Posted by: JCK at December 10, 2005 10:16 PM