Charity

cyn·i·calAdjective/ˈsinikəl/

1. Believing that people are motivated by self-interest; distrustful of human sincerity or integrity.

2. Doubtful as to whether something will happen or is worthwhile.

I’m often characterized as cynical; however, I don’t think of it as a bad thing.  After all, the world would be vastly different if people really were motivated by doing good, always told the truth in a non-harmful manner, and did what they said they would do.  However, a world like that would be, most likely, a convent or a monastery.  Even the least materialistic of us likes our stuff.

Because I point this out, find it amusing, and force students to really confront their biases, beliefs, and behaviors, I’m the “bad” person — nay, the “bad” teacher.  It makes one wonder what society wants history teachers to teach.  Life is both exquisitely beautiful and horrifying. It is a Gordian knot of epic proportions due to the number of effects and interpretations that occur from one event.  To present a sanitized, watered down version of history is to rob humankind of our story.  We are beautiful, exquisite, messy, complicated beings.  We don’t agree.  We get angry.  Anger leads to the dark side…

God, I love a good story, but I digress.

Today’s post is about charity.

I often make references to the Bible.  I’m still surprised (you’d think that cynicism would have kicked in my now) that Christian students DO NOT GET THEM — EVER! When I ask them about this, I’m overwhelmingly met with, “I don’t go to church.” said in the manner that implies (or states, depending on the tone) that I’m an idiot.  Or, depending on the tone, an “effing” idiot.  What can I say, my bad.

However, one student confronted me with the fact that people don’t do charitable acts because they aren’t taught to be charitable.  I immediately countered with, “Tithing could be considered charitable, because the money supports the church and churches support the community.”  (Taed pointed out later I was an idiot to think they would know what tithing was. My bad.) The student looked at me, asked what tithing was, and then doubted whether churches did charitable acts.  I stood there stupidly.  Really? It’s like the American Church system is having a PR crisis.  Since when don’t churches do charitable acts?

So I pointed out to him that I am either very good friends or the relative of people of strong Christian faith.  I pointed out that the people I know are charitable.  I even gave examples — helping a neighbor, taking dinner to someone who is sick or just had a baby, giving money to the Salvation Army, or helping build houses.  They were aghast.  Why would you give your time or money other people? Indeed.

In fact, that’s where a lot of the conversation went.  Why would you give away your hard-earned money or time to somebody else?  When I pointed out that you can’t take it with you, and that gluttony is consuming more than you need, they still weren’t uniformly convinced.  There really was, at 13 or 14, the idea that I keep what’s mine.  I don’t have to help anyone.

I began to see the young man’s point.

Charity really has to be taught at home.  My parents helped others — either through time, deeds, or money.   I think people fail to recognize that volunteering is a charitable act.  I know that many of my relatives give greatly of their time and money.  Many have made mission trips to other countries to build schools, houses, or put in wells.  I have countless friends who have picked up lunch, made dinners, picked up groceries, or went to visit sick or housebound friends.  How sad that in our school community, it wasn’t clear that people are giving to the community.  These people give of themselves because it’s the right thing to do for society.  They are generally motivated to make this world a better place.

I feel so sad that there are people who will never know the beauty of giving to others.  If you only take, and never give, you fail to see the fabric of society and your place within.

Pretty odd perspective for a cynic, don’t you think?

 

 

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