Left Justified: Blessed are those who give

Left Justified: Blessed are those who give

By Stanley Campbell

Rockford is a very generous community. Cautious but giving. During hard times, especially the 1980s, many local food pantries and soup kitchens continued receiving more and more donations as more and more people were put out of work.

I’ve noticed it takes at least three years before Rockford will support a new nonprofit. It takes a while before Rockfordians trust an organization that helps their community, then they open wallets and give generously. Lately, though, I’ve been running into curmudgeons. These folks always have a reason why they won’t give, even to innocuous programs like hunger relief or world peace. Either they don’t trust the project, or they complain about its politics (or lack thereof).

The majority of giving used to come through churches, but either we’ve become more secular, or the churches have become less generous. They don’t read their Bible: Jesus consistently and strenuously reminded us to “help the poor or go to hell” (Matthew, Chapter 25, verses 41 and 42; look it up).

Really, we should help to make the world a better place. Thank goodness there’s good folk who do good with what little they have!

I’d also like to commend Rockford businesses that support nonprofit organizations. Most businesses partner with one or more socially redeeming projects, not only to help advertise themselves as a caring concern, but generously to make this town a nicer place. I admit I hit a few businesses up myself for donations, and many respond. But some tell me, “If we helped you, we’d have to help everyone.” Untrue. A business that helps no one is really not a good business for the community. They should at least help one local group. Then there’s folks who use the American poor as an excuse not to help overseas poor. That excuse is used by a lot of folks who help neither. Help both: little money goes a lot further overseas, so you can do up to 10 times more there than here.

When I solicited for help for Iraq, I was surprised by “Oh, our government already helps” and “those people don’t need it.” Anyone who’s done any type of emergency relief, from the flooding of the Mississippi to the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York, knows lots of people don’t receive government-sanctioned relief. There are folks who fall through cracks here in the States.

In Iraq, people are suffering now, and it’ll take a superhuman effort from everyone: the United Nations to lots of non-governmental organizations (NGOs, as they’re called). And somehow I don’t believe our government’s gonna help much. Donald Rumsfeld has not proven himself so humane, especially in that war-torn country.

I support Church World Service (they host a Hunger Walk in October). CWS works with church groups that have a good reputation in almost every country in the world. They do development programs that have a long-lasting effect and “teach people to fish” instead of just giving them food. I also encourage Christians to support Muslim relief organizations, not only to show their good faith, but also to build a bridge so Christians and Muslims can work together for a more peaceful world.

Rockford Urban Ministries is co-sponsoring a dinner this Saturday, April 26, 6 p.m. at the Muslim Community Center, one block south of Harrison and South Mulford. Fifteen bucks for all the Middle Eastern food you can eat, and you’ll be supporting a good cause.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

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