Philanthropy-the practice of performing charitable or benevolent actions
Now, before you think I am demeaning charitable donations by the rich, let me be clear that I am not. Organizations that do the work on the ground could not survive without private donations and corporate or federal grants. People like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet often give enormous amounts of money to charity. Whether or not they give to make an impact, to feel good about giving, for tax purposes, or a blend of all three is not something that I can know.
That being said, our idea of philanthropic giving is letting go of something for the benefit of others at your personal expense. If this is the case, we must acknowledge the working poor as philanthropic because many give their time and effort for jobs that benefit others at wages that they cannot properly live on.
Real philanthropy works 50+ hours a week welding steel beams and doing construction so that I can have a building for work and a house to live in.
Real philanthropy works in the cafeteria at my university so that those in the future middle and upper classes can have something to eat.
Real philanthropy works in the gas station down the street so I can drive my car to go to work and school, and to see my friends.
Real philanthropy works in the kitchen at the restaurant my friends and I visit to watch the big game.
Real philanthropy works overseas so that I can have my shoes, clothes, phone, computer, etc.
Real philanthropy takes out my trash, cleans the bathrooms at school, prepares food for me at work, bags my groceries, makes my hotel bed, serves my drinks, and dry-cleans my suits.
Jobs provide dignity. Many working poor are proud of their jobs and enjoy doing them. However, we cannot continue to climb over the backs of the poor in our quest for the American dream. We must realize that our comfortable, secure lifestyle depends on people who “tread the winepresses, but suffer thirst” (Job 24:11). The Great Recession has seen increased unemployment and downward mobility in the American family, yet many corporations are seeing record profits. We have been sold the naïve ideas that wealth eventually trickles down and that with growing profits, all boats will rise with the tide. This is not a call to diminish corporate profits, but for those businesses and individuals who are able, to provide adequate wages that allow for greater standards of living that are in line with rising profits.
There are those that grumble about welfare, unemployment benefits, SNAP, and other social safety nets, claim that the government should not be involved at all in helping the poor, and that the church should be the primary agent to care for the “least of these”. If this is the case, it is time to act on these convictions and stop hiding behind our political rhetoric to conceal our apathy and inaction towards the poor. The fact that the government provides safety nets is not an excuse to not be involved in the lives of the poor.
As we seek the welfare of our cities and those living in them, we shall find our own welfare (Jeremiah 29:7), therefore let those with businesses provide fair wages for their employees, let those who can educate help provide better job skills, let those with time help others find employment, let those with money leave better tips, let those without money listen to the stories of the poor, and let us all look at the faces of the working poor, encourage them, and thank them for their contribution to our society.
Real philanthropy begins with you.