Since last week's column about the future of the Community Christmas Campaign was printed, we've received our fair share of suggestions. Most fall into the category of adjusting the program to eliminate those chronic characters who form a line for anything free regardless of their circumstances. Other suggestions have been offered to limit the program to the needy elderly. And indeed, many readers have suggested to eliminate the program entirely.
Despite the variety of suggestions, the common theme is that generosity is often abused. That problem is most certainly not limited to our community. But the real question remains - how do you guarantee that your generosity will go to those truly in need and not those who simply "play the system." And believe me, we have an abundant population who fully understands how the system of assistance works and they manipulate that system daily.
There is an underlying theme to many of the comments we've received this week. That theme is an understandable one - how can we teach, motivate, reward or promote parental responsibility? Or the other extreme - how can we punish or discourage those who ignore those cultural, social and parental responsibilities?
There's no easy answer. And perhaps - don't read this too negatively - there may be no answer. This may be that unique problem lacking a solution. And yet you and I both know, we will still try.
I don't want to dwell solely on the Christmas Campaign. This annual fund drive is just a drop in the charitable bucket. And by charitable, I mean the host of programs, funding, grants and handouts that assist those in need.
I had a discussion Friday with someone who is extremely active in the system of providing assistance to those in need. I argued that I cannot believe there are those within our community who go hungry. I repeat here - I do not accept that argument. However, I do believe that there are those who spend their resources on needless items - bingo for example - and sacrifice the necessities that their children require. I know for a fact there are those who fritter their funds and then go out seeking assistance for their utility costs or other items. It is that behavior that society must address.
And yet I return to the same point - you cannot mandate responsibility. Laws most certainly won't do it otherwise the prisons would be empty.
Our community needs a heightened discussion on the true nature of our dependent population and the potential solutions available. Thus far, too few voices are having these discussions. And yet if that discussion is not held soon and solutions are not offered, we will someday reach the point beyond which there is no hope.
Raise your voice people. Apathy is no longer acceptable. Action must begin.