Always The Personal Note by Richard King

Story type: Essay

The longer I live the more clearly I perceive the extreme difficulty reformers have to interest people in philanthropic schemes which do not place their religion, their brand of politics, or they themselves in prominent positions on the propaganda. It seems to be very much the fashion among those who desire to help others that they do so in the belief that they will thereby be themselves saved. So few, so very few, help the less fortunate on their way without cramming their own religion, or their own politics, or their own munificence down their throats at the same time. They cannot be kind for the sake of being kind; they cannot help others up without seeking to brand them at the same time with their own pet views and beliefs. And then they wonder why the poor will not be helped; why they are suspicious, or ungrateful, or allow themselves to be helped only that they may help themselves at the same time–and to something more than their individual share. Humility and tolerance–and tolerance is, after all, but one aspect of humility–are the rarest of all the human virtues. So much philanthropy merely means the giving of a “bun” on the condition that he who takes the bun will also stop to pray, to become Conservative, and to give thanks. Good is so often done for the sake of doing good, not to right a social wrong–which should be the end of all goodness. Even then, so many people are content to do good from a distance; or if, perhaps, they do come among the objects of their unselfishness, they do so with, as it were, the dividing-line well marked–with them, but not of them, and with the air of regarding themselves as being extremely kind-hearted to be there at all. It is their “bit”–not to help on the peace, of course, but to help themselves into Heaven. The poor are but the means to this end.

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