Monday, June 8, 2020

It Is Better to Receive....

The Joy of Receiving, Managing, and Sharing God's Blessings - ppt ...
Maybe it is better to give than receive, but receivin' sure is nice!

Recently, a reader asked me if he could make a donation to my blog, and asked me for my PayPal address.   So I gave it to him and didn't think much about it, until a few days later, I got a note from PayPal saying I had received money.   Gee, that was nice of him!   Since then, two other readers have made donations, which is appreciated.   But of course, this gets me to thinking, and that is a dangerous pastime.

First of all, I am not sure how to handle this.  I see on some YouTube channels and blogs they have something called "Patreon" or other service to donate with.  Sometimes they list the "Patrons" in the video or on a sidebar.  I am not sure my readers want to be identified by name, lest they lose their security clearances or jobs or spouses, when folks find out they've been reading my blog.   After all, this is subversive stuff!  You know, personal responsibility and all - heresy today.  If you have donated and want your name listed (or don't mind if I do) then let me know.  Or I can use a pseudonym.
'It's better to give than to receive' is from the Bible, Acts 20:35 (King James Version): I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.
This is an interesting quote, and this sort of thinking underlies most of Christianity these days - well, except for Reverend Cashflow and his pals, who are all about you giving and him receiving.   No more of this wasting money on the poor!

It is an interesting quote in that I often rail against handing out money to the poor or homeless or drug addicts and whatnot - it often doesn't help the person involved, but actually makes their lives worse.  They become dependent on handouts and stop seeking remedies of their own.  Some have argued that our aid to African countries has served only to destroy local economies, as local farmers can't compete with "free" food from America, and aid money ends up in the Swiss bank accounts of corrupt dictators, who remain in power, in part, because we pay them so well.

It gets complicated, this giving stuff away thing.

The funny thing is, there is another Bible verse, which is not actually a Bible verse, but is a popular aphorism:
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime
This is an interesting quote, as many people think that it is in the Bible, and that Jesus said it (after all, he was a "fisher of men"- right?).   I think it was a Victorian era attempt to sort of wash out a lot of the feel-good Socialism from Christianity.   After all, we can't have people handing out money - that's Communism, or at the very least, bad for business.

I think, however, there is a happy medium here - that there is a way of reconciling these two schools of thought, which may actually be one.   I am not sure that Jesus wanted to create a welfare State.  Well, maybe he did - it has been 2,000 years and people have distorted and translated his message many times.   Maybe Jesus was some radical Democratic Socialist or Antifa agitator of his age, or an Andrew Yang wanting Herod to hand out 1,200 shekels every month to every citizen.  Could be, but I doubt it, somehow.

I think the first quote has two interesting meanings.  It is indeed better to give than receive, as the giver feels better about themselves than the recipient.   Emotionally, we feel good about ourselves when we donate to charity and help out our fellow man.   A neighbor locked himself out of his camper the other day, and we all tried to help him, trying different keys we had to see if they would fit.  We all wanted to be the guy who would help him out, and be a hero, for at least five minutes, before everyone moved on with life.   A local locksmith ended up being that hero - for a hundred bucks.

This is, of course, why altruism is somewhat evil.  People make a big show, sometimes, of donating to a cause or volunteering at the Parcheesi club - and then nailing themselves to the cross and moaning about how no one appreciates their great sacrifice.   We give to feel good about ourselves.  It is better to give than receive.

The recipient?  Well, they appreciate the hand up, but again, emotionally, when you rely on others for help, it creates a condition called learned helplessness which I wrote about before.   People who are dependent on others for sustenance often resent their supporters and rescuers.  The welfare recipient isn't grateful to the government, but resentful. The relative who gets $500 a month from their siblings, will talk trash about them behind their back. If you give money to someone, don't expect their eternal thanks, if you get any at all.

By the way, I met another fellow who sends money to a sibling, in order for the sibling to pay for their pets.  As you might imagine, this is causing difficulties with his spouse, who wonders why they are spending (and in a marriage, it is "they") their money on a ne'er-do-well relative. They have separate checking accounts - the husband and spouse.  It makes me sad to think about it.  And I am sure, like with other siblings I have seen in this situation, the recipient accepts the money, but holds a simmering resentment of brother.

I kind of fell out of love with David Sedaris in his later writings.   In the last article I read, which I think was in The New Yorker, he talked about how his sister killed herself (no doubt after he mocked her in his books as a broken-down drug-addicted loser) and how he was buying the seaside cottage he had dreamed (and written) about.  In the future, all the family reunions would be at his oceanfront home!  He would be the patriarch of the family and in charge of everyone!   I wonder how the rest of his siblings feel about that.

My friend who is supporting his brother's dogs is somewhat the same way, organizing family reunions and being the patriarch of his family.  I guess people like that feeling of control or being in charge.  Like I said, altruism can be evil.  And speaking of evil, the brother who receives the money does so by saying he can't afford medical care for his dogs, and thus shames his sibling into giving him money.  Sort of like how people in Mexico will rent a small child and smear his face with dirt, and ask you for money for "medicina" for their rented child - trying to shame you into donating.

Yes, this whole giving-and-receiving thing can be quite evil at times.

We had a situation in Jacksonville where a lady nearly drowned due to the rip currents.  If you get caught in a rip tide and are being swept out to sea, don't panic.  Just tread water and stay afloat, eventually the current subsides.  If you swim parallel to the shore, you will get away from the rip current and can than easily swim back to land.  The worst thing to do is to try to fight the current, which just exhausts you until you drown.  And we've had a couple of those lately, too.  We get them every year.

Anyway, this lady was caught in the current and a man went out to rescue her, which is tricky, as sometimes drowning people will drown you if you try to help them (there is a metaphor there somewhere) so it helps to have some sort of flotation device.  Anyway, the lady was rescued and the man disappeared.   Where was the hero?   Everyone wanted to know.  He went back home and didn't realize he was a hero until he googled the incident out of curiosity as to what happened to the lady.  They met up and everyone lauded his heroism, as is appropriate.  But I suspect that meetup may have been a bit awkward.   Would it be like in the newspapers or novels where they would meed up every year to celebrate the event?  Or would eventually everyone forget about it and be happy to move on with life?  Would the man get tired of the moniker "hero" - it seems many do, as they tend to downplay their own actions.   I don't have answers here, just questions.

But getting back to our two quotes, the second actually ties in with the first, in a manner of speaking.  While it is appropriate to rescue a drowning person (if you can safely do so), on the other hand, it gets tiresome if you rescue them and they immediately jump back into the ocean and start drowning again - and then again, and again.   If you could rescue them and then teach them how to deal with rip currents that would be better.  But what if they say, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever, I don't need to know this, because you'll always be there to rescue me - or someone like you!"  Mere giving can breed dependency.

The best gifts, therefor, are ones that allow the recipient to grow and learn - and learn to take care of themselves.  Handing out $1000 to someone to do with as they please might help them for a short period of time.  Handing out a $1000 scholarship might help them support themselves for life - and what's more be in a position later in life to help someone else.

When Jesus (allegedly) said, "It is better to give than to receive" he wasn't talking about free-money cash handouts a la Andrew Yang.   After all, he even says, it is better to give, and receiving sucks.  So would Jesus today say, "yeah, let's do guaranteed annual income!  It is better to receive, man!"  I don't think so.   In fact, his quote would seem to indicate the opposite.

Of course, it is an entirely different thing to pay someone for services rendered, as that is not "giving" but exchanging money for services.  And maybe this modern world of Patreon is something along these lines.  In the Renaissance era, artists would have "patrons" who would pay them a stipend to create - to paint, sculpt, write symphonies. The patron gets something out of it, in the form of recognition for their good deeds, and often a piece of artwork or a symphony.   Today, people donate to YouTube channels, and apparently even blogs, because they feel they have gotten something of value from it.  I have donated to such sites in the past.  Not a lot of money, but if you can get even a dollar or two from a lot of people, it adds up.

Some other sites sell swag - t-shirts and coffee mugs their logos or artwork on it.   This moves the transaction more towards commerce than patronage, but it is a neat way of allowing people to show their support for your project.

Of course, few, if any, of these folks are making money on blogs or YouTube channels.  A few people - often odious ones like stinky-pew or whatever his name is (some sort of Swedish fascist that is popular with gamers and 14-year-old girls) makes millions by putting up the most inane YouTube dribble - mostly him talking into the camera.  Or that kid who plays with toys - but that is basically sponsored content.   Still others make money from advertising more than from patronage. Again, a few make a lot, most make little or nothing.  And even those who make a few dollars for a few years, find themselves falling in the "stats" as their channel gets stale and people move on to "the next big thing, incorporated."

So, I don't feel weird about receiving money from patrons.  First of all, it doesn't add up to enough to live on.  Second, I feel at least I have done something in return, so it is not a handout or anything.   But it has got me to thinking - several readers suggested I condense some of my postings into some sort of book-like form with a coherent narrative, and maybe this is something I should look into.  Then I could sell this as swag. Maybe.  That sort of smacks of effort, however.

The image above, I scraped from the Internet, and it has an interesting interpretation of Acts 20:35.  I am guessing that is from Reverend Cashflow's page - telling parishioners that it is better to give than to receive, once of course, God has showered you with his largess.  And if you are going to give, well, make sure it is tithing to the church - right?    Maybe that is the fundamental message of that Bible quote - hand over the dough, minister needs a new Cadillac!