Warning this is a bit of a rant. It started when I saw a shared post on facebook yesterday that was pure gossip and essentially nothing but social slander. A post that demonized the poor and made generous people out to be the victims of fraud. I would have let this go, but this post has been shared 15,000 times. I cannot sit back and watch an entire group of people be attacked and vilified from what someone thinks they saw happen in Walmart.
The post talks about a person theoretically returning gifts that were given from an event like Project Angel Tree at Walmart and receiving store credit to be able to buy food or other items they may need or want. It was implied that the “anything they want” would be something horrible like alcohol or cigarettes or a new tv.
My Question to start is this “How do they know where the items came from and why they are being returned?”.
The words and ideas in the post above are slanderous and hateful.
It has become popular among conservatives, and Christians to slander and demonize the poor or people in need for their lot in life.
Over and over again we see the ideas promoted that these people are lazy and simply taking advantage of our generosity and government policy to live a plush lifestyle at the expense of those of us who are generous and the average taxpayer.
While that may be true occasionally, I think it is entirely unfair to make generalizations about people we see in line in Walmart and extend that generalization to people we have never met. While programs like Angel Tree are amazing and allow families in need to receive gifts during the holiday season, they are not specific to a person’s needs. How are we to know what a child or family needs during a particular season? Sure we may think they will enjoy a lego set, a barbie, or a bicycle for Christmas, but what if we are wrong. What if they really want to have a nice Christmas meal as a family and enjoy the luxuries of food that others around them are enjoying. What if they have different interests, need new tires for their car so they can get to work safely, or simply need to buy medicine for a child that is sick that week.
I could go on and on but my point is this, we cannot know what another person’s needs or desires are unless we know them personally. We cannot and most definitely should not slander one person much less a whole demographic of people that we do not know. Instead, we should work to get to know them personally and take the time to understand their situation.
It is easy to be self-righteous and offended when we think we have been slighted or our generosity has been taken advantage of.
Having said that, if we are really trying to be generous then the act of giving should be enough in and of itself. We saw a need and reacted to the need in love and generosity. That is all that God asks of us. He does not ask us to police what happens after we give, that is God’s part. We are simply supposed to act in love.
The reason I am writing this is I feel like it is easy to forget how much words and ideas matter. Things like the paragraph above posted and shared on the internet have an effect on how we as individuals think, our culture, communities, and society. Promoting ideas like this is horribly damaging to the way people around us perceive needs and react to them.
They move us from a generous, caring society to a suspicious, greedy, materialistic society, polarized around what we have or do not have. These ideas create divides and separate us into faceless groups rather than building bridges and understanding between people.
If you are reading this I would like to ask you to do something, well, 2 things really.
The first is this, don’t share posts or ideas that devalue people. Period. Full Stop.
The second is this, if you see a post like this and have committed to not sharing things like this, don’t scroll by and ignore it. Push Back. Call it out for what it is. Yes, you will probably receive some nasty comments, but we need more voices that stand up to these ideas. In order to move our culture and our society toward compassion and generosity and away from fear and greed, people need to see the alternative. There are hundreds and thousands of people who see these idea’s every day that are easily influenced by what they read. Be the voice that tells them these ideas of slander, hate, greed, and fear are wrong, misguided, and have no place in our society.