It’s always ourselves we find in the sea*

“What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue,” Ayn Rand (1964).

This is the second in a series of responses to my recent post, Giving Very Small, reflections on hunger and homelessness in American cities not as detached statistics but as human encounters. 

  • You now prompt me to do the same. Now there are three of us throwing starfish back into the surf.
  • My wife and I often carried the apples we grew to people on the street, only to notice that a lot of them threw the fruit into the gutter. You can’t trade what they wanted for apples. So then we started bringing food to the food shelter.
  • Those connections, those acts of kindness, are the best way forward.
  • I have often wondered the same thing myself, but also have hesitated, as NYC is so full of grifters posing as AIDS victims, military vets, etc. Maybe a handful of bills and taking a chance is the way to go.
  • Recently, I have found myself frequently annoyed by members of the young punk crowd with their little cardboard signs that say things like “Why lie? I need a beer.”  I feel like saying, “You know, there are people on the street who really do need help.”
  • One summer in San Francisco, with lots of homeless and/or street people asking for money, I was uncomfortable and conflicted. My friend, a woman of color from Memphis, did not give them any money or even consider doing so. She said that nearly all these people know where the community help organizations are located – the soup kitchens and shelters and drug/alcohol advising centers – that San Francisco has significant numbers of them and has put lots of resources into such programs. She believes that giving the people we pass money does not help them with the larger issues they are facing.
  • Is it about being a lapsed Episcopalian? Or was it Your “Giving Small” post that made me roll down my window for the elderly man I’d passed many times without five bucks for the look on his face? I’ll pass that way again. Count on it.

* e.e. cummings, “maggie and milly and molly and may” (1956)

James G. Blaine

About James G. Blaine

Most of us undervalue what seem our tiny contributions to our communities and the world. As a result, we feel powerless, even victimized. But, like the butterfly effect in science, the lives we lead with our families, in our communities, and at work – all the so-called little things we do – collectively change the world. As I grow older, my ambition grows more modest but not less important: to participate fully and to contribute what I can. That’s my goal with this blog.