I was at a fundraiser last night for a mission that provides microloans to folks in India and other countries. It was very interesting to see how these folks make a difference in the lives of people in their program. Yes, I donated some money to support them!
Their concept is to empower folks to earn for themselves while helping each other and keeping each other accountable for money they borrow. Part of the speaker’s message was on how just giving money or food to the poor people is good, but has some unintended consequences.
He laid out some of the reactions to these donations:
• Appreciation when the first gift arrives
• Anticipation when the next box comes
• Expectation when will the next box come?
• Entitlement we deserve these gifts from the “rich”
• Dependency we need these gifts to survive
• Low self-esteem from being dependent
I believe this is a pretty accurate continuum of reactions to “free stuff”. This mission seeks avoid the progression via their loans and training to help folks help themselves. They do training, mentoring and advising to show folks how to build a business that they can run and earn their living. The result? The folks have higher self-esteem and are happier!
To some extent we Americans also fit into this progression. I confess that social security and Medicare would be examples for me and that I have developed a dependency on. Especially Medicare which saved me a lot of money. Sure I paid in for these programs, but also know the US needs to borrow money to pay me. I’d have to do a lot of downsizing in my lifestyle if I lost these benefits. That would be tough and frustrating for me.
Obviously I am not alone, but the picture gets even larger with food stamps, welfare and other “gifts” that while appreciated at first, can become a dependency for the beneficiary.
I have a couple of questions thinking about this. First, how do we help people that need help avoid an entitlement mentality and free them of the dependency that comes from it if they can make it on their own? Second, are we doing any of us a favor continuing to give us “gifts” when we know they are coming from a giver, the US, who is borrowing more and more each day to give them to us? And last, are we relying on a house of cards for our future?
I don’t claim to have the answers, I hope someone does!!