A Sane Response to Poverty


What are we going to do about the poor, my friends ask each other constantly? What are we going to do about the city? What are we going to do about the crime? Let’s get serious and do something.

I don’t know, I guess they’re right. We should be doing more to stop murder. We were going to form our own police force and go clean up the streets, but House was on. And I meant to commandeer a few hundred hotels to house the homeless last weekend, but I was scrapbooking, and you know how time-consuming that is. I did hire a squad of goons trained in social work to force every kid in my zip code to go to school and pay attention, but now we’re all busy painting a mural on the side of my house. I’m sorry! It’s a great mural! And we’re using that paint with less fumes?

Really, I’m sorry. I should do more…

Wait—–I’m not the government!

It is insane, I hope you can see, to think that any bunch of 20-year-olds, no matter how committed, no matter how intelligent, is going to do anything to stop crime. It’s insane to think that any bunch of nun-types–even with the full power of a global religious network behind them, not to mention Jesus– is going to do anything to end poverty.

So why do we keep trying? It’s like trying to hammer in a nail with a leaf. I guess it looks neat?

But, meanwhile . . . maybe we should *look* for a hammer?

Charity would work much better, or does work much better, when we don’t give people things unless they ask for them. It is reasonable to expect people to ask you for something, if they want you to give it to them. You don’t have to guess. Humanity’s number one skill? Knowing what it needs. Poor people’s number one skill? Usually, justifying why you have money that they don’t. Number one justification?* Because you were born lucky, and they weren’t.

Is that true?

Is it?

Are people poor just because they are unlucky?

Then shouldn’t the United Way be handing out rabbits’ feet?

A sane response to poverty is to help people, when they ask for help, if you want to. When we do things we don’t want to do, that we are not obligated to do, we’re not actually helping anyone. It may look like we help, but actually we slow down progress by clinging to old problems instead of letting them resolve. Maximum efficiency dictates that each person use his/her talents in the way only he/she can; it is the things you want to do that will bring about the goals fastest. (Side note: any task taken on out of guilt is guaranteed to exhaust you.)

No wonder all these people are getting on your nerves! Leave them alone!

A sane response to poverty is to stop feeling guilty that you are not President. You are not qualified to fix these problems. Please find and elect people who are.

If you want to help poor people directly, this is what has been shown to always work: find a child, expose them to a stable, successful adult at least once a week, and don’t treat them like they are poor. Those nails will hammer themselves.**

All you have to do is hang out and let them watch you.

Talk a lot about yourself. Tell them all about your job and your money and how fun college was. Don’t try to solve their problems.

Maybe try to make them do their homework.

charity: the good intentions of many people warped into a double-edged sword, slicing away at the capabilities of both our government and the people it should be helping; human kindness tragically taken advantage of; coincidentally, also my friend’s babymomma’s first name.

If we do it, they won’t have to.
Let’s make them, instead.

Thanks for reading! Shoutout to my favorite spambot for the violent metaphors.

*Man that show Family Feud is racist. Someone needs to fix that!

**Bunch of children asking for your help, if you need help finding one.