OPINION – In my workplace, the walls are covered with numerous photographs depicting key historical moments that pertain to the cause of liberty. They cover a wide span of American history including a re-enactment of the Boston Tea Party and angry students shouting at a young black woman during the era of segregation.
Most of us have seen these images in the pages of our history textbooks. However, one of the most striking photos is so recent that it likely hasn’t made it into a history book yet.
It’s the photograph of a 90-year-old volunteer named Arnold Abbot getting arrested in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, in 2014 for feeding the homeless. Abbot has been arrested and ticketed multiple times for violating his city’s ordinance that prohibits “food sharing.”
Abbot is the founder of a nonprofit organization called Love Thy Neighbor. It’s telling that, in our society, a person who lives up to one of the purest expressions of human decency could face criminal penalties.
It’s also more than a bit ironic that a heated debate is raging today about the prospect of federal budget cuts that would include programs like Meals On Wheels.
Social media is buzzing with memes and anguished posts from individuals concerned that the elderly will starve if federal spending is reduced in the least. Clearly, most of the outrage stems from a perceived opportunity to paint the Trump administration in the worst possible light.
According to Meals On Wheels America, more than 5,000 community-based programs are the recipients of funding from a variety of federal grants and agencies. Of the funding they receive, 35 percent comes from federal government with private donations, states, cities and other resources making up the difference.
Only 3 percent of their funding would be affected by proposed cuts in the Trump budget. The other programs would continue without interruption.
While this clarification from Meals On Wheels helps to put the issue into perspective, there is a larger principle at stake as well.
Why should we allow government to become the ultimate authority on how to meet these kinds of needs within our communities? Any time budget cuts or, more accurately, spending rate reductions of any kind are brought up, folks start breaking out the sackcloth and ashes.
How would our society ever have the arts, or science, or Public Broadcasting Service, or a host of other programs, without the government providing them for us?
The answer, of course, is that individuals, churches and communities who see the need for such programs have historically provided for them. What’s more, they’ve done it with far greater efficiency than our bloated federal bureaucracy that’s racked up more than $20 trillion in debt.
And let’s not forget about the disservice of creating dependency upon a system that can only thrive when those it purports to save are kept powerless. Politicians love to create classes of victims which they they then pretend to save.
Why else would politicians create laws forbidding people like Arnold Abbot from stepping forward with authentic solutions? If you think it’s really about “food safety,” think again.
It’s about creating a captive constituency and perpetuating the fiction that the state – at any level – is our savior.
Keep that in mind next time you hear about families that have been on welfare for generations and then remember that these are the people politicians claim to have “saved.”
None of this suggests that there aren’t real needs within every community. It does suggest that government-sponsored solutions are not the best way to resolve those needs.
Blogger Matt Walsh hit the nail on the head as to how these needs should be met when he wrote:
Personal charity is an act of love. Helping at a soup kitchen is an act of love. Giving a hot meal to a homeless man is an act of love. Volunteering for Meals on Wheels is an act of love. But sitting back and letting the government take care of it with other people’s money is not an act of love. It’s not an act at all. It’s nothing.
The best way is for each of us as individuals to step forward and love our neighbor in the same sense that Mr. Abbot does. Do you love your neighbor enough to be arrested and taken to jail for doing the right thing as opposed to simply what is legal?
In addition to being willing to help our neighbors, we also need to avoid becoming dependent upon government.
One of the best things we can do for ourselves and our families is to embrace the once-fashionable virtue of self-reliance.
This means having the capacity to take care of our needs as best we can without expecting others to carry us.
This allows for real, not forced, charity to operate as it should. It also keeps government operating within its proper limits.
Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events viewed through the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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