Monday, April 13, 2009

2360 Charity

Monday, April 13, 2009

"The essence of charity is giving what the other wants, not what you've decided they need."

I don't remember where I got that, but it's true. Governments, formal charities, and individuals seem to think we know better what another needs. We don't listen to, or brush away, what they want. I guess we figure that since we don't need and they do, we therefore must know better.

This may be at the root of the "making and keeping friends" problem.

I am generous. I give a lot to various favorite charities. I am willing to help people at cost to myself. I used to tell people that if they need assistance at any time of the day or night, they can call on me.

I don't much do that any more. The few times that someone actually took me up on the offer, they seemed to become completely dependent on me for a very long time after. Like because I came through for them then, I would handle all their problems (marital, financial, emotional, professional, medical, legal) from that time forward. It became oppressive. I guess I'm not as charitable as I thought.

That's an extreme. Those people probably needed a Mommy, someone who seemed sure, someone to make decisions for them. It's probably different with the majority of people.

I wonder if with potential friends I come across as too "I know what you need", and not enough "What do you want".

An example: If someone's beloved cat is in the final stages of kidney failure, all she really wants is a hug. But my first tendency is to advise her not to replace her carpeting yet. Just shampoo it for now, because her other cats are getting up there in age, too.

How many times can you say stuff like that to people before they roll their eyes and don't want to hear from you any more?

Maybe the problem with my making and keeping friends is that I give them too much of what I think they need, and not enough of what they want.

I think I have difficulty figuring out what people want. I don't read people well. Add to that the fact that what I would want in the same situation is what I try to give. Maybe I don't want what other people want. I'm weird.


An aside: Did anyone ever ask the people of Iraq what they wanted?


Several people have lately noted that people tend to avoid them when they're depressed. I think I know why. We know that there's not much we can do. Yeah, we can listen, but that doesn't really seem to help. Yeah, a depressed person is a drag, but that's not the real reason.

The real reason is that we can't predict what they might do, what they might pick up on.

If there's the slightest possibility of suicide or other kinds of harm, I, for one, would never be able to forgive myself if I thought that it was something I said or did or didn't do that "set them off". One never knows what the proverbial last straw might be. It's easier to avoid the whole problem by avoiding the person.

It's the only way to be sure anything that happens wasn't my fault.

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