What do we deserve?

“Would you send me packing or would you take me home?” — Roger Waters

I was reminded of a time during my childhood when a family of strangers rang our doorbell. They came in beaten and bloody and told my parents that they had an accident and didn’t have any money. They had scrapes and bruises, so they didn’t require bandages or a hospital visit. They just appeared to be more down on their luck than anything.

I may have been nine or ten at the time. It’s hard to remember precisely when this happened. I just remember my parents giving them a little bit of money and a black and white television we didn’t use anymore. I think my sister and I gave the children some toys we didn’t play with. At the end of the day it didn’t amount to very much.

Jt didn’t occur to me until much later that no one bothered to verify their story. They could have easily gone door to door using the same act and raked in numerous toys, used televisions, and small amounts of cash that add up to large amounts of cash. We certainly didn’t discuss it as a family. We just gave a little of what we had and didn’t need.

The question of whether they deserved the help didn’t come up, but it certainly comes up today. I remember years later sitting on the Pastoral Council at church and listening to how the Christian Action directors of all the local churches work together to coordinate their giving. They report on who comes in, what they ask for, and what problems they report having. It seems that a number of them encounter the same people and not all of those people are on the up and up.

When confronted with our politics it seems I have fluctuated between the nine and ten year old me and the attitudes of young adult version of me that questioned those we gave to. There are many instances where I just can’t identify with conservative ideology. Sadly, this is one where I definitely can relate because I used to think the same way.

The breakdown occurs when we ask the question of whether someone deserves assistance. It’s an innocent enough question at the outset. No one wants to be taken for a ride. No one wants to give up their hard earned money to someone capable of surviving on their own. No one wants to comfort the comfortable. We want to know that we are helping people that really need our help. It’s simple enough and yet it leads us to a very dark place.

It’s one half of a very dark and very sordid strategy to play into basic human emotions. You can imagine the simple mention of the dreaded “Obama phones” that people supposedly got. It gets us started on a cycle that spirals out of control. Why do they get free phones? Are they nice phones? How many free minutes and how much data is free? How come I have to pay for my phone, my minutes, and my data?

When you hear any mention of free tuition or college loan forgiveness that is the number one response. Why do THEY deserve it? It is the same overwhelming emotion older Americans have when they return to their high school or college alma mater. Why did this get so nice? How come they are spending all this money on them? What did they do to deserve this? Why didn’t we get this stuff?

In point of fact, it inflicts the left on occasion as well. We ask the same questions of captains of industry. Why do they get tax breaks? Why don’t they have to pay more in taxes? What did they do to deserve all of this? In many instances, how we answer those questions helps determine why we are conservative or liberal, but it doesn’t answer why we ask those questions in the first place.

Decades later, I couldn’t tell you exactly what that family in the beginning got. I certainly can’t say that we missed any of it. The better angels of our nature certainly would like to know that they turned out okay, but those darker angels might have appeared had we learned that we were just another easy mark on their way to easy luxury.

In a similar way, I don’t know how to parse out who deserves assistance? I’m certain some don’t really need it and are taking advantage of the situation. Still, it took me a long time to get there. It took me a long time to get to the place where someone’s free phone, free lunch, or free health care doesn’t cost me much, so I shouldn’t worry so much about whether they deserve it. At the end of the day, what exactly does any of us deserve anyway?

Author: sbarzilla

I have written three books about baseball including The Hall of Fame Index. I also write for thefantatasyfix.com. You can follow me on twitter @sbarzilla.

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