People Helping People – Something that Works
Posted by hyperpat on March 3, 2008
Scalzi is, once more, on his soapbox over on his Whatever blog about what being poor is like and what should be done about it. His original essay on this subject appeared way back in 2005, and has been reprinted, linked to , and discussed in numerous forums, including my own here at Being Poor is Not a Crime. This is one soapbox I hope he never gets off of (and feel pretty sure he won’t), because it’s a real problem here in America that most people blithely ignore and would just rather not hear about.
His latest post makes a strong argument that shaming those who are poor merely because they are poor is not going to help: the great majority of those in that situation don’t need that kind of motivation to get out of their fix (they get more than enough of that as it is, thank you very much, merely from the stupid bureaucratic rules we have imposed for people to receive government aid). Rather, what they need is real help in terms of doing things that allow them to get more education, or ways to allow them to work while their kids are properly cared for (without having the child care cost more than what they can earn), or real help with medical conditions (universal medical insurance would help greatly in this regard) – this list goes on and on. Getting this type of aid to those who need it doesn’t just mean dropping a check in mail (though this helps too) – it means you personally doing things to help: babysitting those kids, driving the person to their medical appointment, helping them fill out some of those nightmare government forms, or giving them some private tutoring. The point of all these types of aid, though, is that they are of the nature of something that Robert Heinlein advocated as ‘Paying it Forward’. Help those who need it, not because you think you might get something back, but merely because it’s the right thing to do, and gain satisfaction in knowing that once those you’ve helped can afford it, they, in their own turn, will help someone else.
The net result of this type of aid (as opposed to those forms which stigmatize and otherwise denigrate the poor merely because they’re poor) will be a stronger, more robust America – the type of place that the whole world can look up to.