Friday, June 15, 2012

June 15: A Farthing Less, Goodness, Guilt

“Yes,” said Scrooge.  “That is my name, and I fear it may not be pleasant to you.  Allow me to ask your pardon.  And will you have the goodness”—here Scrooge whispered in his ear.

“Lord bless me,” cried the gentleman, as if his breath were gone.  “My dear Mr. Scrooge, are you serious?”

“If you please,” said Scrooge.  “Not a farthing less.  A great many back-payments are included in it, I assure you.  Will you do me that favour?”

This Scrooge is post-ghost Scrooge.  He has been to the edge of the grave and returned.  As my father would say, “He finally got his head out of his ass.”  Now, Scrooge is trying to make amends for years of greed and cruelty and self-centeredness.  He meets two gentlemen on the street who’d solicited charity for the poor and destitute from him at the beginning of the book, (“Are there no prisons?”—sound familiar?), and Scrooge now makes a donation to their cause.  A really big donation, by the gentleman’s reaction.

I believe in giving back.  I believe, when you have been blessed with money and “stuff,” you should return a portion of it to God in the form of donations to food banks and disaster relief and social organizations like the Red Cross or St. Vincent DePaul.  It’s just the right thing to do.  When you’ve been given a lot, a lot should be expected of you.

Before we became a one-income family, I used to give money to charities.  I used to tithe my ten percent every week at church (or try to).  I felt it was my moral responsibility.  Not only that, it made me feel good about myself.  It made me feel like a contributing member of society.  I still feel that sense of moral responsibility, but I can’t give like I used to.  Actually, aside from a canned good here and there, a few quarters dropped into a Salvation Army bucket, I haven’t made a donation to any cause for a very long time.

That sort of depresses me.  It also fills me with a great deal of guilt.  I’m like a sea lamprey right now, attaching my vampiric mouth to the underbelly of society, sucking and chewing to my heart’s content.  I know I’m being melodramatic and, perhaps, a little too hard on myself.  However, I still crave the gratification I received from helping other people out.  Right now, I feel like I’m one of the “other” people, and it isn’t very satisfying.

Perhaps I just need to change my mindset, reduce my expectations.  Sure, I can’t give my ten percent every week at church, but I could give some.  My vision is obstructed by a forest of financial worries.  The phone bill payment is late, and my car insurance is due today.  I have to order some books and DVDs for teaching in the fall semester, but I don’t have the money to do it.  It’s a little dispiriting.

Saint Marty isn’t post-ghost Scrooge.  He’s more like pre-adoption Oliver Twist:  “Please, sir, I want some more."

Yes, it's like looking in a mirror

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