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August 25, 2014

America, Good Works & Bad Taste: The Head-out-of-Your-Ass-Now Challenge.

Take heed that you do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise you have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. That thine alms may be in secret. --Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 6, Verse 1-4

What happened to the secret, anonymous or quiet side of good works and giving? --WAC/P, 2014, Jackson 5

The recent ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was tacky, tasteless, fun and great because it raised tons of money for and awareness about the fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease". The Challenge entailed a fun ceremonial drenching by ice water and the promise of check followed by a challenge to your (most famous?) friend to do the same. See Jon Bon Jovi's video below. But to some it was also the pinnacle of our showiness and cluelessness about giving money to deserving causes and, especially, helping the less fortunate. Americans have always supported charities and, thanks to their leadership, Generations X and Y seemed to have amped up the altruistic impulse. Money is not enough. It's personal. You give your time.

Everyone, it seems, devotes their time and energies regularly to a worthy cause or institution. Above all, we talk or write about it at great length. We have become so public and even flamboyant with our services-to-others that information about them now routinely (almost as if it's seen as required) appears on resumes, CVs and job applications. Also being disclosed is information about religious affiliations, often in connection with some community service. We see it on Facebook and other Internet musings and hear it in casual live conversation. Community service these days is not only nice. It's cool, and a social "must", too. Americans of all ages and demographics are compelled to give us an inside peek at their personal goodness.

Many of the resumes I've seen over the past decade have information on community service or religious affiliation. Some are tolerable. Some of them scream "Hi, I'm a twit". Certainly, lots of these disclosures are sincere and done advisedly; people want us to know who they really are. But they are trumpeting, whether it's true/sincere or not, "hey, I am a nice person, and concerned about others" (i.e., service in the community) or that "hey, I am a devout person, and I'm both nice and honest" (i.e., affirmative identification with a religion).

I am getting tried of it. Keep that stuff to yourselves, maybe? Quit embarrassing yourselves. If the information we don't really want from you is true, we are confident that it will shine through you somehow in an interview or in the workplace. We want you to grow and benefit from the gift of community service, and your faith if you have one. But please don't talk about it. Showing us is fine.

What happened to the secret, anonymous or quiet side of good works and giving? Wasn't that the original idea of the spirit, at least, that gave life to our giving? One possible solution is the "What About Clients/Paris? Good Works Head-Out-of-Your-Ass-Now Challenge". Here is how the WAC/P? challenge works:

Starting now, for one full year, any time, energy or money you or your family expend to (a) help the less fortunate, (b) find a cure for a disease, (c) fight or correct an injustice or (d) otherwise engage in any service or act of kindness, whether or not planned, shall be expended anonymously, secretly or, in certain cases, as quietly as possible. By way of example, and without limitation:

1. You may not write or mention that currently you or any member of your family are pitching in twice a week in the "inner city" at Jojo's Soup Kitchen,

2. That you took a leave-of-absence without pay to volunteer for 6 weeks at the Children's Hospital in Chile after the earthquake,

3. That you or your husband gave pro bono financial advice to the Church of the Final Thunder (or that your kid mowed the minister's lawn),

4. That you helped an elderly traveler fix her spare tire or help her get to her doctor's appointment on time.

5. You get the idea.


Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman in Magnificent Obsession (1954), based on the book by Lloyd C. Douglas (1929)

Posted by JD Hull at August 25, 2014 11:01 AM


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