Originally published with The New Americana.
I don’t give money to panhandlers, for several reasons. Number one, I grew up with a retired cop and private detective for a father who knew firsthand that many supposedly destitute beggars made more money than he did.
My dad has a famous family story about being approached by a panhandler who, after my father insisted he empty his pockets first, turned out to have an enormous wad of cash and stormed off grumbling. And concerning those beggars who might actually be in need, my dad told me more than once, “There are plenty of places that people in that situation can go to for help — I donate to some and pay taxes for more.”
I once gave money to a woman after buying into a sob story that a few weeks later proved to be entirely false. I’ve given food to people who claimed to be starving, only to be treated with contempt and anger for not giving them the money they’d asked for. And as a missionary in South America, I accompanied a homeless man to a little market to buy him bread, and as I was leaving, I saw him return the bread and buy alcohol with the money.
I’ve learned that giving to panhandlers might not be the best way to meet the financial needs of the less fortunate, so I donate regularly (as Republicans tend to do) to organizations I trust to allocate relief funds more wisely than I can.
On the flip side, I know others who, despite having similar knowledge and experiences as mine, continue to give alms to beggars, reasoning that even if they’re only truly helping one person in need for every nine frauds, it will be worth it. I deeply admire this generosity, although I think there are better ways to manifest it.
But here’s the question: which of us — those who give to panhandlers and those who donate to relief groups — is more charitable? Which of us is more compassionate to the plight of those in need?
If you’re a somewhat rational person, I’m sure you can see that while the methods might not be identical, there’s no difference in the heartfelt intent of each group: give aid to the poor and needy as best as you know how. Show love, kindness, and service toward your fellow man. Different route, same destination. One might be more effective than another, but that doesn’t mean that one is less compassionate.
Unfortunately, vocal members of the Left don’t seem to accept this duality of pure intent, instead painting anyone who disagrees with them as an evil racist bigot homophobe who wants people to die. If you don’t support “common sense” gun reform, then you don’t love the Sandy Hook victims enough. If you’re concerned with threats facing Europe and want increased vetting for refugees, you just want starving orphan children to suffer. And now, if you wear the wrong shoes to board a plane, you don’t really care about the people of Houston.
This is nonsense, and I want to believe that most people recognize it as such. But I can’t blame you if this is what you’ve come to believe if you listen to the beloved Leftist media.
We need to remember that people on both sides don’t see themselves as the bad guys; they want to be charitable and compassionate. They just want to do the right thing the right way, and they disagree on what that is.
One perfect example is the breaking news that Trump might now put an end to Obama’s DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — order after hinting a few months ago that young immigrants “shouldn’t be very worried” about the program’s future. Trump alluded to DACA’s safety and added, “I do have a big heart.”
But that’s the problem: DACA and illegal immigration in general are not about compassion or the size of your heart. Emotion sells, but it clouds our ability to make sound judgment.
However, if the Left continues to push issues based on compassion, they have to realize that it goes both ways.
There’s nothing compassionate about dismissing the millions of legal immigrants who have respect for our laws and went through the laborious process of gaining citizenship the right way. There’s nothing compassionate about taking their jobs and their benefits or making them feel second class for obeying our nation’s laws.
There’s nothing compassionate about encouraging lawlessness. There’s nothing compassionate about risking American well-being.
The media are acting like overturning DACA is an affront to small children, or even those who came to the US as small children, which is not necessarily true. This bill includes those who arrived as high school students who are now in their late 30’s, and most importantly, it doesn’t mean all illegals will be deported — just that authorities can deport if they feel that they must. There’s nothing compassionate about lying to your audience and striking unfounded fear in their hearts.
Overall, everyone wants to be empathetic toward those who simply want a better life for their family. We want to show love to our neighbor. But just because someone may disagree with you on how to accomplish those things, that doesn’t make them heartless.
The same goes for any issue. There’s nothing compassionate about destroying liberty, restricting free speech, threatening religious exercise, killing babies, stealing other people’s money, or, as Matt Walsh so aptly points out, promoting behavior that will incur God’s wrath. But I don’t want our politics to automatically jump there with every disagreement because there’s nothing productive about framing everything in terms of compassion.
We all want a better, cleaner, safer, happier, and kinder world. Compassion is a motive, not a method. And when making policy that affects everyone, you have to think from your head and not just your heart, or you’ll end up hurting one group at the expense of another. Framing every position as one of empathy does more harm than good. If you really want to help people, then stop demagoguing the issues and start creating solutions.
Get your compassion out of politics and start helping people.