It seemed we needed to make an exception to the procedures as it related to my little friend. So we went to the cashier together and I lifted him up and the clerk scanned the label within his clutching hands. He never let go. Not from the time he sat down with the rest of his class to the time they got back on the bus and went back to pre-school. God bless him.
It’s the innocent ones we most want to help don’t we? I smiled as I saw him climb those big stairs of the bus holding his new shoes. I guess I made a small difference in his life today, but it felt very small. I wondered about his family, his education, the influences around him. I wondered what world those little shoes would walk and as he grows where the larger sizes would take him. As we were organizing the shoe drive I was concerned we would be taken advantage of by the kids or their families. But as I handed out shoes my worry shifted to the opposite concern; I wanted to do more. I felt petty – one pair of $18 shoes to fight against all the odds that small child faces.
I am not alone. Americans all over the land have these same feelings. We are a giving and charitable people; we want to help the poor and downtrodden. According to Gallup 83% of us donated to charity last year and 65% volunteered our time (see Welfare Opinion Page). How many of those dollars and hours were like mine – happy to help but wondering how much good I really did?
As a society we are good at giving things away – shoes, food, toys at Christmas. But the human being on the other end is the most important part and it’s the rare charity that really teaches life skills and prepares the poor to grab the American Dream. Nor is our federal government any good at that; it is just easier to formulize a benefit and hand it out. We can “give a man a fish”, but “teach a man to fish” – well not so much. That is what I was feeling watching my little friend climb the steps on the bus. His new shoes will take him only so far.