Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Thankless Thanksgiving

It's that time of year again. Time to count one's blessings... time to express thanks for them. Right?

Well, that depends, apparently.

It's also a time of year where many people who have think about those who have not, and give accordingly.

I am becoming more and more disturbed in recent years with what I see on the receiving end of these gestures of kindnesses. To be quite honest, it's why I've turned to supporting organizations such as Compassion International and Samaritan's Purse, giving to children in other countries who are truly in need and are grateful for what they're given, instead of giving to local charities and food drives.

It's not that I'm opposed to local charities -- please don't misunderstand. It's just that I work with many families on the receiving end of these things and what I see quite frankly disgusts me.

Example: Children whose names with sizes and toy wants are handed out so Christmas presents can be purchased by a generous stranger, and given to the child on Christmas Day as if it was from their parents or from Santa, as the family so chooses.

Great idea, in theory, and I used to participate in this. And lest anyone protest what I'm about to say and defend themselves or someone they know who is a recipient of one of these charities and does not act like this, I will post this disclaimer: I know some families are truly appreciative and grateful and honestly can't afford to buy anything for their child and for those families, this is a wonderful thing. However, I know far too many families who either:

a) Buy SO MUCH STUFF for their kids for Christmas that you'd think they were millionnaires and then accept the charity gifts on top of it. (I have one such child this year whose mother has told me she has ALREADY spent $800 on his Christmas gifts... the child is TWO... and this family has NOTHING. Where do they get this kind of money (earned income credits on income taxes, welfare checks, and disability checks... I know the answer to that) and WHY do they spend it in the way that they do??? How many two-year-olds do you know who get $800 worth of Christmas gifts, and if you are buying gifts for a "poor child that doesn't have any toys", would you not be more than slightly upset to know that your hard-earned money purchased things for a child who was already getting more than all of your own children combined??

b) Complain about what they get or cheat the system. Did you know some of these families actually open the gifts before they ever get home, return them to the store, and use the money they get back to feed their own addictions? It happens. Others do give the things to their children, but do nothing but grumble and complain about them. "This doesn't even fit right." "These toys are just junk. They didn't buy the GOOD stuff." "Can you believe that's all they got??" Yep. That happens too. I've seen both examples more times than I can count.

See why I don't buy these kinds of things anymore? I will occasionally buy things for children I work with who I know to actually need the items, and whose parents I know are responsible and appreciative, but I no longer take the risk on an unknown child. You might say that's a shame for the child's sake, but in example a, the child is getting more than enough anyway, and in the first part of example b, the child isn't getting the things you bought anyway, so only for the second part of example b does the child lose out at all.

So, even though I've become quite used to seeing how people use the various systems and charities that are available to them, I got another example this week which just floored me.

A mother, scowling and VERY disgruntled, said to me in a hateful angry tone of voice, "I am SO MAD at that such and such church, I just HATE those people, they are AWFUL, I could just bleepety bleep bleep..."

Aghast at what on earth this church could have done to have angered this lady so, I asked exactly that: "What did they do?"

"They gave us a turkey for Thanksgiving and didn't give us a pan to cook it in!!!!"

Well, aren't they just the most horrific people on the face of the planet?

"Maybe they didn't realize you might not have one," I suggested, hoping to tone down her wrath a bit and make her see reason. Ha.

"Well they gave us one every OTHER year!!!" she grumbles. Okay, someone gives you a free Thanksgiving meal not just this year, but every year, and they're horrible for not giving you a pan...

"Well, maybe whoever was handing them out this year just forgot, did you ASK them for a pan?" I questioned.

"IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN IN OUR BASKET!" she yells. "They always put it in our basket!" More strings of profanities.

Well. Happy Thanksgiving to you too. I see she understands the true meaning of Thanksgiving.

I can't wait to see what she has to say after Christmas. I filled out her child's "desired toy list" with learning toys I wanted him to have because she handed it to me back when it was time to register them for the gifts, and said she didn't know what to ask for. Hope she isn't terribly disappointed because it'll be all my fault. ;)


Lauri said...

I see your point. There's an organization around here I like since it requires people to move towards independence, which I'd hope has people who understand better. OTOH, I have a friend who was upset because she had three kids and she and her husband only made 70k that year and so much went to credit card interest that it was unfair of charities to turn them down. Um, did they tell her to have more kids than she could afford and to run up bills? I don't see why a charity wouldn't have an upper income limit.
Oh well, I guess that's enough of my two cents for tonight.

Prairie Rose said...

Yes, I will say that our City Mission, on the other hand, is wonderful, for that very reason. There are various requirements residents must meet (which include major job searching) to stay or they get kicked out. Kids and all. Which almost horrifies me... they're at a shelter for a reason, after all, and what are these kids going to do without a place to stay, but at the same time, I admire them because their requirements aren't that hard to meet for anyone who really WANTS a hand-up instead of a hand-out. Get up in the morning, go out and look for jobs, and do your assigned chores at the Mission and you have nothing to worry about.

70K a year and they want charity? That's something else I've been mulling about... what is poverty in America and does true poverty even exist, and all this talk of economic recession and/or depression -- is it really? A future blog post, perhaps... :) I wish these "poor" people in America who are supplied with free or almost free housing, food, clothes, electricity, gas, etc. for sitting around the house doing nothing could see how "poor" people in other parts of the world live. Maybe then they'd realize how rich they are.

Dawn said...

I'm waiting for a phone call from a parent today. I lectured my students yesterday about wasting and abusing what has been giving them so kindly by others. One of my lines was, "even the poorest among us isn't as poor as some of the children in this world." Of course on of my darlings jumped on my bandwagon and started preaching about children starving in Africa =-) so I had to talk about that adn some other things. Anyway...I'm preparing for an earful. Most of the students in my school are very poor, but they all manage to have "things."

Tiff said...

THANK YOU for posting this. I work at a domestic violence shelter and see this every single day....
We have tried so hard to use it as a teaching/learning experience but no matter what we do it changes nothing. And I try so hard not to have a judgemental attitude, but it's soooo difficult at times when the attitude is soooo hateful and it's always someone else's fault. It seems to have become a nation of takers instead of givers, so disheartening.

Christine said...

Oh my! That is disheartening. It would be hard for me to do a job where I saw that. I realize you do it for the kids but it would make me so sad to see the lives and people those poor kids are surrounded by.