My brother acquired polio when he was only 18 years of age.  Outside of the restricted use of his limbs, he was able to get around fairly well and expressed a relatively positive outlook on life. He had a lot of friends, loved to travel, loved to join in fireside sing-alongs. In short, aside from his handicap, he enjoyed life more than many other people that I know. Unfortunately, as he got older, his polio worsened and eventually had to accept the fact that he needed more care than his family could provide, so he was placed in an Extendicare Home in Regina, Saskatchewan. Even there, we communed by telephone at least once a week, and even more often as time went on.

My brother had a sharp, thinking mind and we enjoyed hours of conversations on most topics, especially religion and politics. But, in time, I could tell that, although he and I communed often, loneliness was becoming his greatest enemy. Real conversation with other human beings is what he missed in his new Extendicare home. Not that there weren’t other people in the home besides himself: there were lots of them. Unfortunately, most of them were there because their minds were deteriorating, either through dementia or Alzheimer disease, robbing them of any attempt at meaningful conversation.

F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.” This is what was happening to my brother. As he sat at the dinner table and watched others around him, some of whom were so far gone mentally that they had to be spoon fed, he saw his own future: humanity–himself,  slowly dying.

My brother passed away last year. I’ll miss him!

Loneliness, if not the greatest enemy to mankind’s well being, certainly ranks high in its destructive power. That’s why we have church organizations, YMCAs, YWCAs, community centers. They are all there to help us combat loneliness. Rare is the individual that does not need the companionship of another human being. Man is a social being. We need each other to survive!



I’m a Philanthropist!

Generally, when we hear of a person being called a philanthropist we think of someone who’s loaded with cash and generously handing it out to just about anyone who asks for it: “the love of humanity”: the type of person we want to be friends with!

But, is the giving of money a true definition of philanthropy? Wikipedia defines it as “private initiatives, for public good, focusing on quality of life“.  That pretty well includes any person who has the good of God’s creation at heart! This would include your local minister, priest, doctor, veterinarian, environmentalist, herbalist, in fact, anyone who holds a title or certificate as a professional in the service of bettering the conditions of humanity or the environment.

On the other hand, does simply holding a service title make you a philanthropist? For example, I may consider myself a youth councillor, and may even be the head of a youth organization and have years of publicly condoned good work under my belt, but secretly, I could be a pedophile, as has been the case with many persons in the news. Can I still consider myself a philanthropist?

One may be a multi millionaire and have many photo ops to his or her credit showing him or her giving thousands, even millions to some well known charity while, unknown to the public, they might have made their millions on the backs of factory workers that were kept under near slave conditions, or they might have caused the deforestation of hundreds of acres of Brazilian forests to feed their hungry chemical factories. Can such a person be called a true philanthropist? Hardly!

As Investopedia defines philanthropy, “Philanthropy must be more than just a charitable donation; it is an effort undertaken by an individual or organization based on an altruistic desire to improve human welfare”. And here, I emphasize the word, altruistic. Although persons like Billionaire Bill Gates, Jami Gertz of the Ressler-Gertz Foundation, and musician, Herb Alpert of the Herb Alpert Foundation give millions to charity, not every public or famous donor should be called a philanthropist. Although persons like Gates and Alpert are to be lauded for their generosity, true philanthropy–true charity, has to come from the heart and has to involve personal involvement in the act of charity: the action has to come from the depths of one’s very soul. I would classify such persons as Mother Teresa, Mahatma Ghandi and Desman Tutu who gave their all, not just a portion of their money to  the public good, as true philanthropists.



Should I help you? And how?

I was born and raised on a small farm in Central Saskatchewan. It was a mixed farm on which we raised chickens, ducks, geese, cattle and grew and harvested various grains. As kids, we were, of course, curious about everything in that great big, wide, wonderful world around us, and that included the our close association with the livestock and fowl that we raised. On one occasion, my brother and I watched as a nest of chicken eggs were in the process of hatching. One chick inside an egg had just begun to crack its shell, so we decided to help out and save the little fella the effort of pecking through the shell by carefully peeling back the pieces of shell that were obstructing its ultimate release.

Unfortunately, our desire to help the chick seemed to have a negative effect on the chick. Although it appeared active, alive and healthy while it was still struggling in the shell, within minutes of us freeing it, it died! That little experience taught me a lesson, a lesson that’s stayed with me even to this day: when do you help someone, and when do you leave a person struggle to freedom on their own accord.

Unfortunately, government agencies can be  among the worst offenders when it comes to determining what is true compassion, and what is just “going by the book“: not knowing when to help –that is, do something for the person that they are quite capable of doing for themselves, and when to genuinely offer help. I don’t think there are any accurate government statistics available as to how many people these agencies actually do help, and how many have turned into disasters, as facts about disaster situations, I’m sure, would have been fudged enough to hide the truth by department heads responsible.

Most church organizations also have a compassionate branch within their organization. Again, it would be near impossible to find accurate statistics as to how many persons were actually helped, and how many were just enabled to continue in their lifestyle. Also, there’s the problem of defining what actually defines help: one person’s claim to having been helped can be another person’s denial of ever having receive any help at all. I’ll give you an example.

Some years back I was invited to have a say in a church group where one of its department mandates was to oversee the distribution of disaster and welfare funds.  When I was first asked to join the council, I had visions of doling out welfare to pretty well everyone who asked for help, much like, many years earlier,  my brother and I had tried to help that poor chick enter our conscious world. Help is help, right? But, it didn’t take long for me to learn that, for charity to be truly charity, wisdom must also be applied along with compassion when doling out help, especially financial help. I discovered that several families and individuals had joined our church simply on the grounds that they knew we had a generous welfare program, and they wanted in on the helpings.

Not that our Bishop had reservations, nor lacked compassion about signing church-funded cheques to these families and individuals, but these families had already exhausted all government and other agency entitlements for help and now wanted to see how far they could play on our good will. These poor souls had adopted a lifestyle that depended on the goodness of others, without making any effort to help themselves.

Although we did close our cheque book on them, we offered council, both legal, if required, a healthier lifestyle, job opportunities, companionship and friendship, whatever was required. A few, as soon as they saw the cheque book close, left to seek handouts elsewhere, but others grasped at the more inclusive help that we offered.

I grew up in a family that placed a high value on the Christian concept of charity. ” [if I] have not charity, I am nothing”. –1 Corinthians 2.

It is true,  One cannot help another without helping oneself! And, it is also true that a wise person must be compassionate enough to know just how to best help a person. Throwing money at them is not always the best kind of help that one can offer.