My Generosity – RIP

I am a generous person. You want my money, my time, my love. I’ll give it to you. I’m not stingy. I am not one to look for the rational reason not to give. Will this bum use this money for alcohol or drugs? He might, but I’m not one to care. He looks like he needs money, so I’ll give it. Someone wants my time in some inefficient, bumbling but good-hearted project? Sure. My time’s all yours. You’re annoying or mean or weird? I’ll still love you. I may not always be smart or logical, but I am generous.

That is, until Iquitos killed it.

It started to die on the streets of Iquitos. Kids, clearly starving, would ask for money. I’d give it. Adults with disabilities I could not even imagine before coming here would beg me for money. Not one to think it through, I’d give. But then I’d get a little following. Kids that would cling on to me. Begging for more. People in wheelchairs coming me after me down the sidewalks, please blanquita. I’m begging you, bonita. Just a little bit more.

I’m in the same office as my boss, an American who’s headed this lab in Iquitos for almost 10 years. She’s also a generous person, clearly more buoyantly generous as this is still occurring 10 years later. People file in, all the time asking for money. It’s all legitimate need too. My roof burned down, I need medicine for my kids, my lover ran away with all my money, I got TB in the hospital. They need money and see my boss as an unending supply of money because she’s white and she’s American and she continues to give.

I’ve given several times to my co-workers, but when the same people started circling around again for money I couldn’t take it anymore. I was afraid I’d turn into my boss. Then I was chased down the sidewalk by a no-legged man in a wheelchair asking for more than the 2 soles I had given him and it died. Right there. Next to the dead dog I’d almost tripped over on the sidewalk in Iquitos. Dead.

I feel exquisitely guilty over this and have pondered, as I turn away my co-workers requests and push away the hungry kid grabbing a hold of my arm. I’ve decided that while I didn’t think I had many rules to my generosity, I expected a certain kind of decorum from the receiver. If I give, you will not ask immediately for more. You will give me time to recup, money or love or time. You will not stress our relationship. You will not appear so needy that it breaks me to look at you, to interact with you. I can’t give if I’m broken so don’t break me. If you are my friend, you will wait for me to volunteer money to you because I want to believe we are equals, despite our skin colors, nationalities, and opportunities in life. And over the course of our relationship if you do have to ask, you will not ask too much, as it is bad form to ask and ask and ask. Don’t manipulate me, abuse my goodness or identify me as Ms. Moneybags. It’s rude to think that way, so don’t.

The people in Iquitos have not followed these simple codes of the decorum of poverty and now my generosity is dead. Dead. Dead. Dead.

I realize that the poverty they experience here has given them a completely different attitude than mine. If you need so much it hurts, you’re going to keep digging in the hole you first found gold (a white American) you have to keep digging because you have no other choice. If you find a foreigner with something to give than you’ve got to figure out every way to get that thing. It must feel like you’re only chance. Their poverty has formed the way they approach givers in a way unseemly to the developed world. And is that their fault?

Still, I’m spent. I can’t give anymore. I can’t have people hanging off of me, pursuing me down the road. I can’t handle knowing that my friends are always trying to figure out how to get money out of me. And I’m heart-broken because this is the only thing I was good at. I’m terrible with authority, I’m hardly obedient, I’m the worst at enduring to the end, my faith falters but I was good at giving. Really good at giving.

I want people to follow my rules so that I can be revive my generosity and feel good about myself again.

Because, seriously, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Me.

Comments

  1. I don’t mean to be flippant (in case you don’t get my tone, I’m terrible with emoticons) it has been a painful thing to discover that mostly I was generous because it made me feel better about myself. I don’t know what to do about it.

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    I completely understand, and I wish I knew what to do about it.

    On a much, much smaller scale, I went through the same sort of thing when I started working in the big city (in my case, Chicago). I was an easy mark at first and kept getting scammed on the streets. Here the need can’t be taken for granted; there are teams of people who make themselves look pitiable, but actually live in comfortable circumstances. If you really want to help, you should give to established charities, not on the streets.

    So anyway, I quickly established a personal policy of not giving money to people on the streets–at all.

    SLC is actually worse than Chicago; there people are very aggressive. I was cutting through an alley once (going to visit Blake Ostler, actually) with my wife and baby daughter and a panhandler actually pulled a knife on me when I wouldn’t give him money. But he didn’t follow us and we just walked away (as tempted as I was to kick his ass).

    I wish I had a better solution, but I’m tapped out.

  3. Steve Evans says:

    Like Kevin, I completely understand what you’re saying Amri, but I have no solution. Cognitively I know that the scale of the poverty shouldn’t affect our desire to help, but in the real world it does.

  4. Amri,

    It’s easy for many of us to take the counsel of King Benjamin and not judge the beggar, without giving much thought to the reality.

    In reality, it may be that your generosity doesn’t really meet their needs. Hard as it is, the need is not for money, but for a change in their way of life, and that may be beyond your capabilities to give. That’s why I love the church’s PEF, in that it has the capability to change lives, not just temporarily relieving the immediate hunger.

    You can revive your generosity by giving what you can that will effect real change. What that is for you, I don’t know. But I’m sure you will figure it out, and this experience is just a step in that process, perhaps.

  5. Beautiful post, Amri.

    I wonder (and hope for my own sake) if a less self-condemning conclusion could be drawn from your experience. It seems to me that while our desire to give (money, time, etc.) may be pure and altruistic, our ability to give, and our ability to maintain that desire is not limitless.

    As you so beautifully expressed, the recipient has the obligation to

    give me time to recup, money or love or time.

    I would suggest that an exhaustion of our ability to give does not negate the reality or purity of our original desire. We have the right, and need, to slow down instead of running faster than we have strength.

  6. Very excellent post, Amri. I agree (a) that Peru can kill almost anyone’s impulse to give money to people on the street, and (b) that our charity often entails a power motive.

    My thinking on this recently is that it’s better for us to channel our generosity into institutionalized forms, anyway. If we give on the street, our generosity becomes conditioned by whatever unconscious biases lead us to give sometimes and not others, without ever really knowing any of the circumstances. But when we give through nonprofits, we give through organizations that can draw on and reinforce existing community structures and that can really take people’s full circumstances into account in deciding how best to help.

    The suggestion that the poor in Peru don’t need money is one I can’t accept. Many of these people are in dire, urgent need. But how the money is delivered is a real issue; after my first time living in the country, I stopped giving funds away face-to-face on the street, as well.

  7. Amri,
    Didn’t you know that we’re all generous because we’re selfish? (Joey is quite the philosopher)

  8. JNS, I agree the poor in Peru do need money, but few if any of us possess the capacity to give enough to eliminate the need, which is what Amri has run up against. I like your concept of giving through NPs, as we now give monthly to a microcredit non-profit, a small but I think realistic effort to help ameliorate the long term aspects of poverty.

    Apart from that, there can be ways we can help truly help that don’t involve money. We do need to be realistic about that as well, and not give more than we can afford (time, love, etc).

  9. Veritas says:

    I have spent a lot of time in India so I know exactly what you mean. It is impossible to keep giving when there are so many who need. And its exausting, sifting through the throngs of beggers and makes you feel extremely guilty. But really, its better for everyone if you don’t give to beggers. In India, we would see little kids who had been abused so they would garner more sympathy. It was horrible.

    I would carry around candies, and discreetly give them to the kids. I would unwrap it for them. This was a treat for them, instead of a rupee to bring back to their parents. But in crowded areas, like Delhi, I couldnt hand out anything. You can’t, you will be mobbed.

  10. Amri, you want to give in such a way that you can continue to give? You want your generosity to be acknowledged in such a way that you can continue to be generous? That’s not selfish; it’s heart-breakingly selfless. Bless you for it.

    Might I suggest you use this experience to ponder on the fine line God appears to walk between helping His children grow and progress (giving to all liberally) and giving them everything for which they ask. (if ye ask not amiss)

  11. I don’t even like it when I donate to my favorite organizations, and then they spend a large amount of the donation sending me junk mail. It makes me not want to give to them.

  12. Great post, Amri. But I do wish I had known about your generosity _before_ you closed the doors. I would so be hitting you up for money.

    Hey, let me know when you’re recouped from this whole Peru thing. Cause I could really use an extra $20. My roof burned down, you know, and then I got TB in the hospital.

  13. The hardest part for me about living in Africa was that my coping mechanism for this was to start seeing through people who viewed me as money–and I really hated that about myself.

    I was lucky, I suppose, in that I was volunteering there–I was free labor for the country, so I was able to rationalize quite a bit about not giving money when it got uncomfortable, as I was already giving years to the society.

    I think finding a good local NGO to give to is a great idea; even better if you can volunteer some hours there and/or hand out cards about their services to people who ask, explaining that this is where your excess goes and encouraging them to go there for help.

    You could also decide on a little fun money–maybe a dollar a day–that you can dispense to that odd irresistible child who makes you laugh or the mama that gets your attention. You still get the feel-good for that one person and can just tell everyone else (quite honestly) you have nothing else.

    You can also take great joy in your womanhood and tell everyone who asks that your husband keeps all the money and they need to ask him!

  14. Amri, can you come nanny my kids for a while?
    And then give me some money and mow my lawn?
    xoxoxoxo

    ——————–
    1] I feel your pain. Try talking a hundred down-and-outs out through delirium tremens with bottles of valium and very tired nurses. Thank heavens for Jesus.

  15. matt w. says:

    when I lived in the philippines (over there it’s their demanding christmas presents all year long as though it’s their money on lone to you.), I dealt with the same problem. Part of the issue, for me atleast, was the feeling I had that the money I was giving to the poor wasn’t helping alleviate any of their problems. I’ve since then never reallt figured out what I really can do that really does help. This may sound cheap and sappy, but the best way I figured out how to help as a missionary was to do my job as a missionary. converting to the gospel really changed lives, and it was a way I could give and see people do better by what they were given. It doesn’t really help starving children though.

  16. So make a generous donation to the local Catholic parish.

    Maybe not ideal, but at least it’s an indigenous solution, and not a humiliating and dehumanizing act of Western imperial handouts.

  17. I want to second Seth’s suggestion in #16. I posted something over on Mormon Matters today, and the subsequent conversation brought the following thought – not profound at all, but something I hadn’t put into words previously:

    “My son was able to give a homeless man what he needed specifically because it did not involve money. He is a college student, so all he had to give was his time. That is what this man needed – someone to stop and take the time to make sure he was treated with respect. My son could not have provided exactly what the Good Samaritan did, since he doesn’t have the ability to provide the transportation and money that beaten man needed, but he was able to provide what that man needed at that time.

    Our efforts to “give” generally are centered on what we have that is easy to give – like a few dollars to a homeless person on the street. However, that money is NOT what the homeless really need. Therefore, our acts are a token of our concern, but they generally are not efficacious – they are, in essence, in vain. That causes our frustration – knowing our concern is not being translated in truly valuable, long-lasting help.

    The more I consider this, the more I am inclined to lean toward picking a charity that I believe can have an actual impact financially and focusing my own efforts on providing my time in ways that I know will be efficacious – that really have a chance of long-term and lasting help.”

  18. Your story reminds me of when DH and I were in Beijing. We were told by our guides to not give any money to the beggars or buy anything from the street vendors. Of course DH really wanted those Beijing Olympic hats; so he buys a half dozen. The next thing we know we are being chased and grabbed. We were literally besieged by every beggar and vendor in Tiananmen Square. Not only us but our whole tour group. DH was not a popular guy that day.
    Really the desperation on those faces was heartbreaking. I could not image how it would be to face it every day all day.
    God Bless you Amri for what you have been able to do.

  19. As an individual who served two years as a missionary in Peru, I can understand what you are saying. I would say let the Spirit guide you. As a missionary we were counseled not to give handouts although we did give service on a regular basis but I can remember distinctly a time when a family came to me asking for money and the Spirit distinctly told me to give them what I had. I think it was about 10 soles. I know it made all the difference to them. They were grateful and I felt at peace. The gospel encourages us to help people help themselves. Follow the Spirit and you will know when it is right to help out these people. Don’t feel any guilt for not giving a handout. See if you can find a way to help them help themselves.

  20. Amri,

    Yeah, this was the worst part about living in Peru for me. So many people needed help, so many people begged for help, but we didn’t have endless funds. Besides, to be seen giving on the street was just plain dangerous – in Lima, the crowds of kids who mobbed you would try to rob you, as well. Little tiny kids who stole because they needed food. You couldn’t feel anything but grief for them, but they were still chasing you down the street, you know? Grabbing you, pulling at you, trying to steal your wallet.

    The weird thing is that I didn’t see this stuff in Venezuela – people begged there, desperate, starving people, but they weren’t aggressive. I think the difference was that they saw few tourists; most Americans and Europeans were there on business, and they weren’t as likely to be either as generous or as intimidated as tourists. So people might say, “Hey, Gringa, got any money?” but they didn’t actually expect you to say yes.

    It made me really question my decency and the depth of my commitment to Christ that I couldn’t give the beggars in Peru all that I had.

  21. Saturday, when we were in San Francisco, we were accosted by a very aggressive beggar. I was trying to explain that really I didn’t have any cash, that I had given it to the guy in the parking garage. All of my change too. And suddenly it occurred to me that I couldn’t explain my inability to help him. He was just going to keep after me as long as I was willing to speak to him. I just broke eye contact, stopped speaking to him and felt very guilty about it.

    I always try to give a little, because so many people have been so kind to us. But I couldn’t do it if I lived in a beggar-town. We have a lot of homeless near my home, but they don’t beg. It makes it easier to help when it’s my own idea and when I know it’s a one time thing.

    If I’m worried about being hounded, but feel like I should help, I generally try to involve a designated giver, like a pastor, a good friend or a bishop. Our family has received anonymous help from designated givers who were sworn to secrecy.

    Amri, maybe if you feel a resurrection of the generosity, but want to help quietly without the backlash, you could slip something to your boss and let her do the giving.

  22. Amri,

    Can I please borrow 5 bucks?

  23. Aaron Brown says:

    Amri,

    In reading your post, my thoughts were similar to Jeremy’s at #6. I wasn’t expecting you to be so hard on yourself. Yes, the poverty in parts of the Third World can be so staggering, and yet one’s funds are inevitably finite. It’s impossible to give to everyone, and so I (whether at home or abroad) tend to give at times, and not at others. I don’t have some magic formula for when I give and when I don’t. I like to think I’m prompted to give when it is most needed, yet maybe I’m just being fickle, or arbitrary, or merely reacting to the variable charitable impulse inside me that vacillates for no clear reason. I don’t know.

    Is your feeling “spent” or your guilt really a function of poor people not acting with “decorum” or obeying your “rules”? Or is it that you’re just overwhelmed by the incredible need around you which you know you could never meet, even if you sold everything you own? You know yourself better than I do, so maybe I should take you at your word. But I wonder if you aren’t just reacting, naturally, as a lot of us would, to how overwhelming it all is.

    AB

  24. My sister taught dance in China for a year. She said she’d buy from street vendors, but she haggle with them over it. This tended to surprise the street vendors, because westerners almost never haggle over price. But among Chinese, it was expected. You almost get the feeling that they looked with a bit of contempt on soft westerners who were too dumb and pampered to know how to drive a bargain.

    Throwing money at street problems is the wrong way to go about things anyway. What you’re really doing is saying “here, if I throw ten bucks, will that be enough to make the discomfort you are causing me go away?”

    You see, it’s not really about them. It’s about you wanting to feel like a nice person, and feeling guilty that you have a lot, and they have so little. So you think that possibly, by throwing some greenbacks at the issue, you can make it go away with a minimal investment.

    But it isn’t that simple.

    You’re a fat western consumer. Get used to the idea, embrace it. If you want to change things, it’s going to take a bit more than flaunting your piggy consumer ways in their face. They won’t love you for the reminder of what a pig you are, and how irresponsible with money you are – so irresponsible, that you’d freely throw away ten dollar bills like they were tootsie rolls at a parade. That’s not real generosity – that’s rubbing their noses in what separates them from you. To you, they are an irritating itch you’d like to get rid of. To them, you are something irrevocably messed up that should be exploited while the getting is good.

    Westerners have been arrogantly throwing money at these people for decades. The best thing you can do for these people is live like they do, and understand them. Then go home where you belong, and try to be a good citizen of your own country.

    And try to avoid bombing their countries. That would be nice too.

  25. Note, I’m not saying there aren’t some things you can do for the poor in other countries. But almost none of them involve playing Daddy Warbucks on a Bangkok street corner.

  26. this is another thing that has sucked away my niceness: my internet (and contact with the outside world) comes and goes.

    It’s not just not giving money to people on the streets. In the end, that’s an easy thing to get over. Like ESO said, it’s this feeling that everyone views me as money to be obtained. They just have to figure out how to get it from me. It’s my co-workers, friends, neighbors. Not just strangers asking for a handout.

    It’s been a huge identity change for me, to go from thinking I’m generous to having to say no to people all the time and have everyone think that I’m a stingy selfish rich American. Plus, when you’re Christian, Mormon, there are some things you’re good at right? So maybe you’re not good at reading the scriptures but you’re great at Home or Visiting teaching. You strive to do everything but in the end your goodnesses cover your weaknesses right? I mean a little bit.

    Also, I just think it’s funny that I’ve had this unspoken rules in my head about how people are supposed to receive.

    Kaimi, John Dehlin, you come to Iquitos. I’ll give you 5 bucks. 20, if I’m feeling generous.

  27. Bro. Jones says:

    I heard from a primary source that Mother Teresa refused to give handouts. And indeed, I was outside her compound once, and the street kids would run up and shout, “Mother Teresa no help us uncle, give us money!”

    If you want to make a difference with your giving, give to a local charity or volunteer your time. Giving money away directly to individuals generally doesn’t end well for anyone involved.

  28. Bro. Jones says:

    I should point out that Mother Teresa did run feeding and medical care stations for the poor, which could be construed as “handouts,” but I’m referring specifically to handing money to beggars.

  29. We do give money to charities (which limp along here too, they don’t function very well or efficiently or honestly) but it still takes out the personal relationship of giving. And I had tried to cultivate this attitude of giving because Christ seemed to choose individuals rather than organizations to be generous with.

  30. Amri–

    do you think there WERE organizations in his community to be generous with? That would be very interesting. [my guess is that the families and communities worked to serve those individuals in need in their circles, but I would love to now of new testament times NGOs].

    I repeat my advice to blame it on your husband–I think your colleagues/neighbors would readily believe this and it may change the way they view you.

    This is, I think, the primary issue of living among the poor (with internet access a close second?). I would love to hear how your boss has done it these many years.

  31. The desire to serve others coexists with judgment. So to simply say that “charity is good” or “charity is bad” makes no sense. Each case is unique. That is worth repeating: Each case is unique. That is, the particular person is part of the equation. (And don’t confuse being judgmental with judgment.)

  32. I think the time to make choices about how much we give is as we are making our budgets and planning our lives. It is so easy for me to get caught up in the emotion of the moment. When I lived in Italy it was the beggars with the puppies; I just couldn’t stand it. Now, it is the humane society email I get once a week. But if I make a choice about how much I can spend a week, and I do it when I am removed from that emotional response, then I feel much better prepared to deal with the decision when the emotions and guilt kick in.

    The balance between giving away all that we have and then not being able to work or provide for ourselves and keeping what we need/want is not an easy one.

  33. Tragic. Those who have witnessed the dire poverty and suffering of children, as hinted at in this post, and still maintain a fervent testimony of the existence of God have an astoundingly strong faith.

  34. #33 john f.:
    This is not tragic. This life involves lessons — lessons that may help us move closer to God. For some, the lessons may be related to emotion — either too much emotion or too little emotion. For others, the lessons may be related to judgment — the balance and trade-offs required to reach a good judgment.

    Compassion cannot not exist in a vacuum. If it did, it would only corrupt judgment.

    I know it is difficult, but try to remember how little we understand and how much God understands.

    (And as for faith — many of us have more than enough proof of God. Not every belief involves faith at a certain point.)

  35. TD, what is tragic is the pain and suffering of millions of innocents in the world — not Amri’s loss of generosity.

    Viewing the starvation of a six-year-old Iquitos street child suffering from a dozen physical ailments due to contaminated food and water and filthy living conditions might be described as “life lessons” by some but I believe it is more accurate to describe it as needless suffering that could be avoided if their society weren’t so corrupt and oppressive so that a functioning economy could exist.

  36. #36 john f.: John, I understand your perspective about pain and suffering — it used to be my own perspective, too.
    But I’m no longer able to hold that perspective. As a person of faith, I now realize that the pain and suffering come as part of a trade-off — for the lessons we learn to get closer to God.
    Some may think that I’m saying that they should find suffering acceptable. In general, that is not true. I believe suffering should only be acceptable to a very few — those of deep faith. If I had not had extensive proof of this concept in my own life I would not be able to make these claims. (And, when one looks closely at scripture, it is easy to find a great deal of pain and suffering as a result of following God’s will. This is not a coincidence.)

  37. If my faith is strong enough I can accept other people’s suffering? Even Jesus wept at the sadness surrounding Lazarus’ death. Accepting one’s own trials is one thing; accepting the suffering of others, especially if it can be alleviated, is something else.

  38. Noray, if I read it correctly, I think TonyD wasn’t saying that.

    He said, “Some may think that I’m saying that they should find suffering acceptable. In general, that is not true. I believe suffering should only be acceptable to a very few — those of deep faith.”

    I think he believes that those with truly deep faith will suffer in some way for it – perhaps because it puts them in direct opposition to “the world” and/or because changing one’s very nature can be painful.

    I apologize, Tony, if that is wrong.

  39. I didn’t read it that way but I like your interpretation better. I apologize if I misunderstood.

  40. Noray got close to what I’m saying. I would add that sadness can coexist with acceptance.

    Why do others suffer? Has some power greater than God caused that? I suspect that we all agree on God’s omnipotence. For whatever reasons, this system is ultimately a product of God.

    So how should I view whatever goals might exist in this system? And how should I view whatever lies along the paths to those goals? Just because they involve evil, poor use of free will, denial of God,…that doesn’t remove their acceptance by God as part of His system.

    So how should any given person react to the suffering of others? The correct reaction depends on the person. Those closer to God are often called upon to accept suffering that most in this existence cannot justify. We truly are in this world and not of it. Some people are simply more aware of that fact — and the expectations placed on those individuals are commensurate.

  41. #41 – Tony, I defended your previous comment, but I am puzzled by this one.

    Are you defining “accepting the suffering of others” as accepting that it fits into God’s overall plan and therefore shouldn’t shake our testimony of that plan? If that is all you mean, I understand and agree. If you mean that we can accept it as part of the plan and, therefore, ignore it or not work to alleviate it, I can’t accept or agree with that.

    Would you mind clarifying more directly what you mean?

  42. TonyD, you’re trying to resolve serious theodicy issues by stating things as facts when they’re not necessarily so. Statements like, “I suspect that we all agree on God’s omnipotence. For whatever reasons, this system is ultimately a product of God” are not necessarily rooted in scripture nor in LDS doctrine. There’s very little indication that “this system” is God’s product.

    When suffering occurs, simply saying that those who want to be closer to God and have “deep faith” should accept it — this is not quite true. In fact, it’s pretty darn obnoxious to suggest that we would all come around to your view if we had the faith that you do. Your statement to John F.:

    “John, I understand your perspective about pain and suffering — it used to be my own perspective, too.
    But I’m no longer able to hold that perspective. As a person of faith, I now realize that the pain and suffering come as part of a trade-off — for the lessons we learn to get closer to God.”

    That’s just condescending junk!

  43. #42 Ray: How do you explain the many situations where God asks that things be done that directly cause suffering? And, as one becomes closer to God, isn’t it then only reasonable that His values and your values become closer?

    #43 Steve: I’m not sure how describing my experience is condescending. I could have worded it differently, I’m sure. Can you clarify?

  44. Steve Evans says:

    TonyD, here’s a slight rewording of your comment:

    “I used to think like you, but I abandoned that way of thinking when I became spiritual and closer to God.”

    Do you see the problem in there?

  45. I thought this post would die like my generosity did. Can’t I offer you 5 bucks TonyD?

    Come to Iquitos, I’ll give it to you. I have some sufferers here who I’m sure would be keen on your theology.

  46. TonyD,
    If your spirituality is leading you to directly and deliberately cause suffering, I would suggest that it may not be God that you are getting closer to.

  47. TonyD #44, you said

    How do you explain the many situations where God asks that things be done that directly cause suffering?

    It would seem to me that a righteous choice that involves suffering ought to only involve my suffering. I don’t think I am entitled to cause suffering in others because I have more faith. Also, I find it hard to understand the concept that personal increases in faith somehow absolve me of the compassion for suffering in others that I observe. I hope that I have misunderstood you, but you seem persistent in this particular line of reasoning.

    Enoch’s conversation with God in Moses 7 would seem to indicate that God is neither completely omnipotent, nor so full of perfect faith that he is not pained at the sin and suffering of his children, or able to step in and prevent the exercise of their agency.

  48. Thomas Parkin says:

    “It would seem to me that a righteous choice that involves suffering ought to only involve my suffering. ”

    I’m not sure. Doesn’t doing the right thing at times cause others to suffer? What of someone joining the church who decision causes stress and pain to family and friends. This isn’t the same thing as saying the reason for the decision is their suffering – but I’m not sure that Tony has said that, either. _Nor does it absolve us of the responsibility to alleviate suffering whenever we can._

    I’m also sympathtic with the idea that becasue God set this stage for us, that he assents to the fact that we will suffer. It was his _will_ that His Son suffer. Jesus was not steered clear of suffering, quite the opposite. In another place, we discover that it is better for us to sorrow also, than remain in a state of existence where we are free of it.

    None of this means that we are right to deliberately cause the suffering of others. But, I don’t think we can connect the rightness of our actions primarily to the fact that they do not cause suffering.

    ~

  49. God clearly allows suffering. I don’t know to what extent we can say (or deny) that he directly causes suffering. It doesn’t strike me as the behavior of a loving father, but that may just be me.

  50. Thomas,

    You make a good point. I have reread TonyD’s statements, and Noray’s comment that Tony says comes closest to his own, but I am still not sure that I understand what he is saying. I think we all knew that this existence would involve suffering, but I think I should try and avoid causing it in others. Most, but not all of the time, a righteous choice on my part should not create suffering on the part of others. They may make decisions on their own that contribute to suffering as they exercise their agency.

    2 Ne 2, and the concept of “opposition in all things” applies here, but I’m not sure of how far Tony is taking this argument. I can accept that suffering is a condition of this mortal existence, yet still have compassion and be pained at seeing suffering in another. That should motivate me to try and alleviate it, and certainly to try not to cause it. Maybe that’s a better way of stating what I tried to in my # 48.

  51. I have discovered that I have become more hardened to the pleas of others on the street the more I live in the big cities – Chicago, Boston, DC, all have many homeless and many people pleading for money.

    Before I traveled to India I was explicitly told not to give people on the street money. We experienced it in Bangalore, but I was particularly shocked on our trip to a tourist destination in Mysore at how we were literally swarmed by people with their hands outstretched. It is so hard to say no, but I just can’t give to everyone. And like Iquitos, there are no boundaries. If you give, people want more. It’s hard to know how to react when, like you said, they don’t follow those rules you have in your head for how this is supposed to go.

    I loved my trip to India and my brother-in-law and sister-in-law have loved living there, but one of the things that wears on them them is the assumption that seems to prevail that white=rich and ripping off the white people is no big deal. I experienced that a bit, but they find it especially hard since they are living in an Indian neighborhood, working with Indian people and don’t try to separate themselves within the expatriate community.

    Before I went to India, a friend told me to not give money to beggars, but to research and find an organization that is honestly doing good in the poor Indian communities and give to them instead. Although that is a very imperfect solution, I think it’s a decent idea.

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