Andrew Carnegie indicated, “In bestowing charity, the main consideration should be to help those who will help themselves; to provide part of the means by which those who desire to improve may do so; to give those who desire to use the aids by which they may rise; to assist, but rarely or never to do all” (Carnegie). He did not believe that alms giving provided value. While I understand the intent that Carnegie had, I do not believe it fits every situation. Alms are “money, clothes, food, and other things given to poor people” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).
Alms giving occurs with the Salvation Army, soup kitchens, food dispensaries, welfare, and a variety of other public assistance programs. Churches provide these items to those in need. I understand the premise that Carnegie presented. He was providing his beliefs that the philanthropist is not to waste money towards those who are not willing to help him or herself. I agree with the concept of limiting wastefulness in an attempt to provide the best value. It would be more useful to attempt to make every dollar count and spending it on solutions to provide the greatest value.
Thave met an individual who I felt squandered his free college education and reverted back to his previous environment. He was of PuertoRican descent. His racial ethnicity labeled him with a minority status. Additionally, he lived in an environment that labeled him the poverty status. Both of these qualified him to receive a free college education. This was an all-expense paid trip through the college system to become an architect. He ended up quitting before graduation and reverted to living generally, where he grew up and in similar circumstances.
What I struggle with is my interpretation of squandered. Did this free education provide him with coping mechanisms to help his children cycle out of the system? Alternatively, did it just provide knowledge how to navigate and take advantage of the system? I watched my parents struggle with multiple jobs to raise five children. None of us qualified for any type of support even though my father worked three jobs and my mother in another. Each of my siblings worked hard for what they have attained. Trecall President Obama wants to provide a free two-year college tuition program nationally.
Subsidized tuition may be available to those with labeled with an ethnic status, or certain income levels, to allow them this already. Whom this would have provided for those that did not fit that description. Ideally, this would have been great for my family. However, in reality, would it achieve the intended outcome? I believe that Carnegie would have considered this as alms giving as it made no distinction between those that deserve and those that did not. He had directed that “those worthy of assistance, except in rare cases, seldom require assistance.
The really valuable men of the race never do, except in cases of accident or sudden change” (Carnegie). I would argue how someone defines valuable. How does someone put a value on another human being? God loves all his children. Romans 5:8-9 indicates, ‘Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Bible, NIV). We are all sinners. At times, events occur that take us through extraordinary circumstances.
Thus, who can truly judge another without full knowledge of the life events that contributed to that individual? Trecall individuals going off to war to fight for the freedom of those within the United States. They can come back injured physically or mentally, is it right that we write them off as useless? The elderly, working all their life, contributing to the society, do they lose the right to live, as their desired contributions are limited through the natural stages of life? These are just a few situations have occurred. There are times that jobs are lost through the economic times; not necessarily who we are.
I do not feel our jobs define us. They are just a portion of who we are. Accepting temporary assistance at times as a means of support is one of them. I feel that Carnegie would consider temporary assistance acceptable. He acknowledged that it can do well; but he was concerned with how long it should continue (Carnegie). Today’s unemployment benefits do not go over a lifelong period. The benefits continue for a little while as long as they are actively looking for another job. Many benefit from it, while others use it as an extended vacation.
Ephesians 4:28 support, “Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need” (Bible, NIV). This supports Carnegie’s viewpoint. Alternatively, Proverbs 14:31 direct, ‘Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker” (Bible, NIV). I feel this opposes the idea of only focusing on results; rather it encourages helping those in need regardless of solving the causes alone. Black and white rarely exists. God knows the hearts of all.
If we judge, do we not take on the hand of God? Individuals have life experiences that exceed our understanding. How would I reconcile judgement around the battered spouse or those children who grow up in that atmosphere? The experiences they share do not need others judgement. They need a hand to lift them out of their struggles. Additionally, what are the qualifications of an individual to be identified as valuable? I do not believe these are Gods qualifications. Men use manipulation and unethical behavior for advancement. Satan works to muddy the waters for those unaware.
Terry Morrison indicated, “The top 20 percent of Americans are in many ways seceding from the rest of the United States into enclaves of good schools, good parks, recreational systems, and state-of-the-art infrastructure, leaving the remainder of American citizens with fairly poor schools and infrastructure. Thus the top 20 percent is becoming more successful and more competitive internationally, while the rest is becoming less competitive” (Morrison). This appears to me that the rich get richer. They take care of themselves or the group they feel they belong. He goes on to caution us.
Robert Reich stated, “The problem with competitiveness is that while 20 percent of our population is becoming more competitive, 80 percent is becoming less competitive. No nation can long endure with that divergence” (Morrison). Thus, does this not dissolve the foundational standards of the United States (i. e. , freedom, life, and liberty for all)? I again, caution against us determining who is valuable. I believe in the initial intent that Carnegie was trying to convey. However, by limiting and judging another as unworthy is a slippery slope. How would God label us?
Do we want to hear that? I believe that individuals need to rely on what God lays heavily upon our heart. I may not understand their situation. However, I am reminded of Leviticus 19:15, ‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly” (Bible, NIV). What Carnegie should have done differently was to stress this in his work. Help comes in different ways. Occasionally, it takes a different course than what others have tried. A listening ear or proper medical and/or psychological intervention may be all that is required.
I encourage digging deeper into what may be holding the individual back. Different life experiences can impede an individual’s movement forward. Carnegie did not have it all wrong. He had a valuable incentive to ensure that you do something without leaving things to chance. Carnegie went on to pursue his interests. These included education and peace. “One of his lifelong interests was the establishment of free public libraries to make available to everyone a means of self-education. There were only a few public libraries in the world when, in 1881, Carnegie began to promote his idea.
He and the Carnegie Corporation subsequently spent over $56 million to build 2,509 libraries throughout the English-speaking world” (Columbia University Libraries: Philanthropy of Andrew Carnegie). Others have followed suit to ensure the charity of their choice was selected for where their lifelong earnings would go. I do not feel any of us have the answer. However, I feel that charity is valuable. We need to help those around us in this life. It shows more around whom we are than who they are. Understanding the value of a human being surpasses anything else.