Money For Nothin’ And Givin’ For Free

Remember when my blog exploded because of a little Random Act of Kindness post?

Remember how I promised a post on the random comments I received?

Well, here it is.

I’m tempted to just end it here. Leave you in suspense. But what suspense? Oh, sure. I got the same crazy spam that prompted this post. Or this one, when I thought aliens were sending me spam.

Then there was the 2000 word comment. (I’m not kidding. I cut and paste it and put it into Word so it would count the words for me.)  A 2000 word, nonsensical comment. Just a string of 2000 words. Who does that? And why?

But quite honestly, most of the spam I received was of your garden variety.

Except for one.

A comment from someone who claimed to have been a sexual slave for 18 months in Morocco. She began listing her financial troubles and general woes. And then she shared that she was praying that someone might bestow upon her, some random act of kindness – in the form of a couple hundred dollars. She ended her comment with this line: “Love to Jane and everyone who agrees with her talent of giving for free.”

That comment has been gnawing at me for over a week now. Is it real? Should I have let her comment appear? Why did I feel so strongly about censoring it?

Is it real? – Who knows. We can never know. There is so much deceit and scam running rampant on our internet waves. It’s hard to tell.

Should I have let her comment appear? – No. Then why am I telling you about it now? Maybe I want to be absolved of any guilt should it have been a true cry for help. Maybe I want her to see this post so she can hear me say, there are other places to go to for the kind of help you need. And then, when I write that response, I start to feel silly. Of course it was another scam.

Why did I feel so strong about censoring it? – “Giving for free.” Handouts. The old story about giving a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime. (Oh, don’t I sound like a hardened, old Republican? Shudder.)

I was a member of the Junior League in our area. No. I wasn’t one of those bored doctor’s wives, looking for a few volunteer gigs to put on my resume. I was a single mom, passionate about giving back to my community. The years I was in the league we had out-of-this-world, amazing leadership. True givers. Movers and shakers. I learned skills about organizing and getting things done that I couldn’t have learned anywhere else.

I also learned that there are tons and tons and tons of resources out there for the downtrodden. For the infirm. For the poor. And they’re not that hard to find.

The world owes me. Stick it to the man. If I can get away with it, why not? Who does it hurt?

It hurts me. Most of all, it hurts you.

There are people out there, families truly hurting. Living each day without knowing if the next day will bring food or shelter. I am much more willing to help someone who is desperately trying to eek out a living – pounding the pavement, visiting soup kitchens and United Way and free health clinics and applying for food stamps when necessary – than someone standing in front of me with their hand out saying I owe them because I should be kind. Or because I have more.

I am much more willing to help someone who is taking responsibility for their destiny than someone who wants to ride coattails.

Oh, goodness. I sound like a cold, hard, witch.

I’m not. Really.

 I’m just wondering when personal responsibility will be in vogue again.


Filed under Blogging, Ponderings, Soapbox

19 responses to “Money For Nothin’ And Givin’ For Free

  1. A sex slave in Morocco? Boy, she must think you were born underneath a rock!

    My sister is one of those grifters who sucks the system dry, and it’s disgusting. The most disgraceful thing she does? She “joins” a new church every few months, drains them of resources/charity and then moves on to another one. SAD.

  2. Doing and writing and reading about random acts of kindness should not make you feel guilty that you’re not doing more or that you have more or that you’ll be taken advantage of. Doing, writing and reading about random acts of kindness should bring you only joy. It’s just that some in the world see you as vulnerable because you are kind and they try to take advantage. You’re smart enough not to let them.

    My advice, that you didn’t ask for, is to continue to do that which gives you joy, and don’t try to figure the rest of it out.

  3. bibliomama2

    I’ve often admired that you’re such a rare mix of compassion and practicality. When I was younger and even more naive (I like to think I’m hard-bitten and cynical now, but I think I’m still naive) I was ripped off a couple of times by people with sob stories who were later revealed to be scammers. My sister says there’s a special place in hell for people like this because they make people suspicious and less willing to give, and I tend to agree. You are the exact opposite of a cold hard witch.

  4. angelcel

    The world, particularly the internet world, is full of predators. God forgive me if the Moroccan sex slave story is actually true but that immediately strikes me as another load of rot from another cynical predator, checking to see whether you’re naive enough to be taken in. That kind of cynicism really, really irks me because every time I come across it, it chips away another little part of me and my readiness to immediately respond to a person in genuine need …just in case I’m being a naive fool.

  5. I am with Angel. I think it’s “another load” – – and if it isn’t, forgive my cynical view about the internet. You have a great heart, Jane, and you’re a good example of always wanting to do what’s right. Thank you.

  6. I totally understand where you are coming from. My mom was a single mom and we were even homeless for a few weeks but she never ever asked for handouts and certainly didn’t freeload. My mom and I got help (from organizations like Junior League, which is why I joined) and worked hard to make a better life for ourselves. I think you did the right thing.

  7. It makes me furious to see young women in their mid twenties running gas scams in downtown Chicago. Holding the hand of a small child, they approach an older man or women and explain they left their wallet at home and need money for gas. They ask for a $10.00 loan, promising to send the money back. The tourist is a bit wary but you can see them thinking “what if it was my wife, daughter, sister…it might be true…it’s only $10.00 and so they hand over the $10.00.Scamming is worse than stealing. It creates cynicism and skepticism.
    If someone asks me directly for money, I usually have something to give them. I don’t care if they really need it or what they spend it on. Run a scam, and I usually have something to give..but not what the person is expecting.
    Not cold and hard but thoughtful.

  8. Responsibility. Something too many forget to teach their kids, I think. There are some very old tenets which I think are missing far too often now; like responsibility for one’s actions, responsibility for one’s self – consideration for others. We have the right to the pursuit of happiness, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be handed to us on a silver platter. We might even have to work for it.

  9. I was raised to give to organizations instead of people. My dad was a cop, so he was very cynical and passed it along to his kids.

  10. This is a hard conversation I often have. With myself. With my daughter. My husband gives to anyone. I choose to give to good charities. The food bank can stretch my dollar much farther than I can. Giving is important. But you get to choose how to give.

  11. This is definitely a tough issue to tackle, Jane, and I really respect you for saying what you said. Who among us doesn’t wonder what to do when the man tottering around with a rattling cup of coins shoves it unpleasantly under your nose, demanding money?

    In some ways, I want to say – who are we to judge the beggar on the street? We don’t know what it’s like, getting to that position, losing everything. On the other hand, we all also hear about how some are people who’ve used all their money on alcohol or drugs and took no responsibility for their habits, and of the people who just decide to go live in the street for no real reason.

    I really wish I knew how to resolve this conflict that I think many of us have…

  12. No need to feel guilty. Let’s face it – if I had access to the Internet I wouldn’t put my message out through a blog post (freshly pressed or not) to ask for help. I’d contact THE POLICE! At least they would have to check into it.

    As for my act of kindness – I encouraged my wife to share her voluminous knowledge of autism and aspergers in a blog. OK…not exactly me doing the task, but I was the one that set her up 🙂

    It’s working too – lots of nice notes from people telling her what a great job she is doing. in case anyone wants to check it out.

    Hmmm…let me see…am I up to 2,000 words yet?…

  13. You do not sound like a cold, hard witch … and I agree, much of society does have a big problem with personal responsibility … it is frustrating.
    There is a big difference between helping someone and doing it for them.
    Sometimes helping is a tougher and longer road … but it is the better choice. I can tell by the things you have written that you are a helper. (not an enabler)

  14. Wow, I can’t believe someone did that. Which shows how naive I must be. I agree with what you’re saying. Responsibility begins at home.

  15. It is tricky. Esp. when you are out and about with the kids in the downtown area: how do you teach them to be kind and generous and compassionate at the same time to be aware of dishonesty and scams?

  16. You’re anything but a cold, hard witch. And since it bothered you to censor her, that just proves the point. It’s so sad that some people prey on the goodheartedness of others simply because they are too lazy to do an honest day’s work. (yes, my conservative, personal responsibility roots are showing.) I always feel terrible passing up a panhandler holding a sign. Especially when they sit a dog beside them. But, I’ve come to realize that many of them have chosen this as their “job.” And they know if they use dogs or kids, people are more likely to give to them. When I simply cannot pass them by, I’ll give them food (especially the dog/kid), but rarely ever money.

  17. “Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime. (Oh, don’t I sound like a hardened, old Republican? Shudder.) ”
    I hate to break it to you but there is a great charity called The Heifer Project that believes in that motto. They give cows or yaks or a number of animals that produce milk to poor families in third world country. The stipulation is that they must breed the animals in order to give another poor family an animal that can help sustain the family.
    So you are not a republican but another one of those crazy liberals trying to do good in the world.

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