Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Why Do We Give?

I read a review of a book about charity knitting today. Reading this well balanced review and some of the comments that followed has emboldened me to openly state my opinions about the "let's knit some shawls for the Amish" group. I know these people mean well, but they have gotten caught up in a wave of sympathy without doing their homework.
First of all the Amish eschew charity. They are indeed accepting the fact that people want to help and they have designated specific agencies to accept monetary donations for medical bills. How many times do these people have to ask outsiders to go away?
These families are Old Order Amish. Their clothing does not even have buttons because that is too fancy. The outerwear is woven, not knitted or crocheted.
I attempted to contact the woman in New England who is organizing this and asked her nicely to contact the appropriate people and agencies before continuing. Because I got no response, I posted the contact info in a comment on her blog. They have narrowed it down to one shawl pattern that she has deemed plain enough and black yarn "because the mother's will be in mourning for a year". If she had done her homework, she would know that these women wear ONLY BLACK, no matter what the circumstances.
Don't get me wrong, I know they mean well, but what is the real motive behind this. Does she really want to comfort these people who don't want her comfort? There are plenty of deserving charities who are in need of knitted items. Guess none of those is quite so "au courant" as the Amish.
I think this bothers me so much, because I have lived among these people for over 30 years. What few realize, is that every sect and church within these sects have different rules. Please don't ask an Amish person in Ohio about the rules for the church in Lancaster County. They may not know anyone from that church or sect. One thing I'm sure they would tell you if you asked, is that they want to be left alone by the "English" at a time like this. They have endured as much intrusion as they can bear.
I guess I see this movement of "shawls for the Amish" as pure arrogance. They claim to have the input they need, including that of a part time Episcopal minister, to know what they're doing. I seriously doubt it. Perhaps the shawls will be auctioned off by the Mennonite Committe to raise money for medical bills, or for the education fund for the murderer's children.
Sorry, but sometimes fiber is not the answer.


Angelika said...

Giving in all it's forms is not easy to do, especially for people living in a society where the average person lacks almost nothing.
Mostly we give because in first place we can; we have the financial resources to do so.......but then it gets difficult, because we ought to ask ourselves why we give.
On another blog my mentioning the ego has been scorned.....
But we must face the facts that most giving is ego driven.... WE give because it makes US feel good to make others feel good. Of course others don't always feel good because WE give what WE think should make them feel good.......and they better adjust to that .....that's what WE often think in Western Culture...
In Buddhist philosophy a gift is defined as a present to celebrate an occasion that is occasion appropriate....that's why many gifts in Asian countries are food gifts....they are appropriate when people are celebrating.
Other mindful donations are made for special needs, IF those needs are either well established or asked for and they are always exactly what people ask....not what we think as members of richer societies would be " nice " or " better " for them.......
Giving has to come from an open heart and not from one that is cluttered with pre-conceived notions of what we think is right and appropriate.......and the biggest gift of all is the love and respect we show when what we want to give is not needed......for whatever the reasons....

originally from Germany
now in Mexico via Iowa, Japan , Thailand and quite a few other poor countries were I worked ( and still do ) in Rural Development & where I deal with wellmeaning but misguided
" givers " all the time.....

~Linda in Virginia said...

Rosi - I couldn't agree with you more. You've managed very well to put words to a concept I was struggling with. Yep, I want to do all I can - but doing the wrong thing is worse than doing nothing. Good Post!
~Linda in Virginia