…but I’m intercontinental when I eat French toast.
In case you don’t know, and I’m sorry if you don’t, that is a lyric from the Beastie Boys, arguably the greatest rappers alive.
Also, this post attempts to place humanitarian advocacy/media work within the context of Christian scripture. I think this is very interesting.
Allow me to sum up a Biblical parable:
OK, actually, allow me a disclaimer – this parable is the combination of two separate parables with two separate messages, but it’s the way that I was taught the stories as a child in Sunday school. Now, allow me to sum up:
A princely fellow strides into the temple with his retinue. He’s very ostentatious as he walks up to the donation box. He makes a great display of dropping in thousands of silver coins, a fortune by anyone’s standards but of course only a small portion of his massive holdings. He looks around and announces the goodness and rightness of what he has done. He then leaves the temple to tell the town about his charitable work.
At the same time, a widow, barely eating enough to survive, drops two small coins into the collection box and leaves as silently as she came in. For the widow, those two small coins, while nearly nothing when compared to the Prince’s sum, represent almost everything she has. It is announced that she has truly done more than the Prince.
This is a mashup of the tale of the Widow’s Mite (a mite being a small coin) and Matthew 6, where Jesus recommends doing good things without telling people all the good things that you’re doing. God sees all, he says, and we should not make great displays of what is always seen.
For people in the humanitarian field, it has to be hard to balance an injunction such as this with the necessity of the work of helping the less fortunate. Note: this is not only about Christian humanitarians – it can apply to anyone. As someone who has handled fundraising/grantwriting for a humanitarian agency, I know how difficult it is to toot your own horn while remaining humble. But for the social sector, the cold fact stands: We need to constantly talk about how good our deeds are or we won’t have the funding and public support to continue those good deeds!
I’ve come across plenty of people who like to casually mention how much they’ve donated to so-and-so a charity in the past year. I’ve also met plenty of people who almost never mention such things, but who I know engage in them. For the former, I feel…envious, of course. They are doing what I cannot or will not do. For the latter, I feel…envious. They have truly adopted the lesson of the parable mashup above and have avoided letting anyone know what they are up to. I know people like this who proceed from a Christian basis, some from a Muslim basis, and others from a purely humanistic urge. They are to be emulated.
I still find myself bothered by the inherent contradiction of charity work in general – charitable workers are expected to strive in silence for the greater good, yet they must keep their voices constant and often loud in order to do that work effectively. I hope one day to find a clean path between these two ideas.