Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Spirit Of Giving

Over at Social Sense, my good friend Mustang recently pointed out how closely our nation's response to Hurricane Katrina approaches socialism. Certainly our government has a role in the relief and recovery of the Gulf area. But the fostering of government dependence by means of the distribution of unlimited and responsibility-free funds promotes an attitude of victimhood. Such an attitude played a part in the outcome of Hurricane Katrina. Worse, the victim mentality will hamper the efforts to restore the Gulf region to vitality.

Individuals should be helping their fellow Americans, and some are doing so in a personal, hands-on manner. One such individual is Roger Guyette of Manassas, Virginia. This man knows all too well what it's like to lose everything because, five years ago, a fire destroyed his home and everything in it. As is often the case, the Red Cross came to his assistance. Instead of merely accepting help and going on with his life, a month after the fire, Guyette became a volunteer for his local chapter of the Red Cross. He has worked many disasters in the past five years, included flooded areas and the Pentagon on 9/11.

Because Guyette feels a special empathy for those in the Gulf area, he takes a personal and selfless role in helping out. According to a front-page article in the September 19, 2005 edition of the Washington Post,
"Roger Guyette knows the frustration and fear of losing everything. Five years ago, fire swept through his Manassas home, leaving him with nothing until the local Red Cross stepped in to help.

"Which is why day after day -- drooping with exhaustion and an aching back -- Guyette has stayed at the window of a Red Cross truck, dishing out beef brisket, applesauce and vegetables to worn hurricane victims amid the floodwater and debris of this Katrina-lashed bayou country.

"Just 48 hours after the storm struck the Gulf Coast, Guyette began ladling out food. Since then, he has offered sustenance and comforting words to thousands of traumatized, angry survivors. He has lost count of the meals, of the people, of the days. But he knows the devastation they face.

"'There's not a whole lot they can do,' he said. 'They're here. They have to reorganize their whole lives. It's tough on everybody.'

"Guyette, 46, is a quiet foot soldier in this disaster -- one of tens of thousands from across the country who have descended on the shattered Gulf Coast to help the hundreds of thousands affected by it...."
Guyette himself hasn't had an easy life. His parents abandoned him when he was a child, so he was reared in a foster home. At the age of eighteen, he had to assume responsibility for himself, without the help most young people receive. But he hasn't allowed victimhood to dominate his life. Instead, Guyette puts his hands to work:
"Guyette and a fellow volunteer, telephone company retiree Gary Rogers, drove the Manassas chapter's emergency disaster vehicle 1,400 miles to Little Rock -- a Red Cross staging area -- arriving Monday, Aug. 29, just as Katrina was departing. From there, they were ordered to Alexandria, La., 140 miles northwest of New Orleans, where evacuees from the city were headed.

"By then the situation was going from bad to hellish. Levees had broken in New Orleans, and by Tuesday night, thousands of people were pouring into Alexandria. The city opened its convention center and other public facilities.

"Day after backbreaking day, Guyette and Rogers loaded hot food in insulated chests into their Red Cross vehicle and dished it out at shelters and churches. As evacuees in Alexandria moved on, the volunteers headed south.

"By the time they reached this bayou country town early last week, Guyette had lost his cell phone as well as Rogers, who had gone home ill.

"Guyette's eyes are red-rimmed with fatigue. He aches from too many days of hefting heavy food chests and too many nights of folding his 6-foot-1 frame onto narrow cots in damp church basements.

"Nevertheless, he has extended his stay beyond the usual three-week Red Cross rotation."
Some of the people whom Guyette is helping are not openly grateful for the assistance:
"Sylvia Targo, 53, strode over. She had been washed out of her home in Metairie, west of New Orleans, and she was angry. She had been told to sign up for financial assistance by calling a number available at Red Cross headquarters. But once she'd arrived, she learned that the number was one she already had.

"'I came over here, wasting gas, and they told me the same telephone number,' she told Guyette.

"'I know it's hard,' he said. 'We're all trying to help all we can.' He told her about the free meals at the site twice a day. Targo shook her head.

"'It'll cost me more than it's worth to drive all the way over here,' she snapped and got back into her car."
Others, however, react differently:
"At another stop along the railroad tracks, a woman stopped her car and ran over to the truck. She lived in St. Bernard Parish, an area east of New Orleans that was largely ruined by the storm. She said she couldn't reach the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross on the telephone and wanted to know if there was anything more she could do. Guyette told her to keep trying and offered her food. She shook her head.

"'I'm not starving yet. I still got a few dollars,' she said with a laugh." Guyette works on, expressing only his empathy: "'I've been right there, too,' he had said earlier. 'Everything gone -- everything except what's in your car and in your pockets.'"
Individuals, both relief volunteers and devastated residents, should play a role in the relief and recovery efforts. We need more volunteers such as Roger Guyette. And we also need more Gulf residents to accept only what they need for the moment. Sadly, we are already hearing of the misuse of some who have received taxpayers' dollars in the form of FEMA funds--the purchase of Louis Vuitton bags, lap dances, and breast implants. Now is not the time for such waste!

Roger Guyette is promoting and playing an active part in a faster and a more effective recovery for the devastated Gulf region. His mission is a laudable one. He personifies the spirit of giving--the spirit of personal giving, an ideal which socialism destroys.


At 9/24/2005 12:54 PM, Blogger Gindy said...

"Worse, the victim mentality will hamper the efforts to restore the Gulf region to vitality."

It will also be hampered by our elite politicians urge to use the victim mentality to their advantage.

At 9/24/2005 4:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article always. We need more Roger Guyettes helping out, and giving in ways other than just money. Donated money is, IMO, too easily used and abused, whereas hands on labor/time is often many times more effective and infinitely harder to abuse.


At 9/24/2005 4:49 PM, Blogger Pastorius said...

Good post, AOW. You know what I always think is so strange about giving is that it is the way we share with God in building the Kingdom of God, and yet, it is often physically and emotionally taxing, and tedious.

When we think of the Kingdom of God it sounds so majestic, but the reality is hardly that here in our present state.

I guess the majesty is in the love between us and God.

At 9/24/2005 6:53 PM, Blogger beakerkin said...

My coworkers on scene are doing their best. I hope that there is no round two in Texas but this time my desk is close to clear and there is no training on the horizon.

I will volunteer as I did before but who knows if I will be selected.

At 9/24/2005 8:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

An excellent article, my friend. I was listening to Donald Trump opine the other day that the best thing that could happen in the recovery process is for the government to help coordinate efforts, but stay out of the way of private enterprise. His comment reminded me of the stories we've heard about people attempting, and successfully scamming the government's "debit card" program. I don't think our government is intentionally corrupt, it is merely a systemic problem that allows social slugs to take advantage of governmental inefficiency. Bureaucrats make it worse by pursuing their own agendas rather than serving the people.

No, it is people like Roger Guyette who make the most important contribution -- and I find it disturbing that some people, out of pure meanness, seem not to appreciate what has been offered to them. Roger is a "giver" and I am confident he will receive the greatest reward. As for the "takers," they'll get their's too.

They say that adversity brings out the best in some people, and the worst in others. I think it's true. I think "angry" people come from angry parents, poor choices in life, and the sort of folk with whom they choose to affiliate. Good people come from those who have thought about what's really important in life and who have learned that in many cases, good works can come from a simple gesture, such as holding out a helping hand.

At 9/25/2005 5:18 AM, Blogger David Schantz said...

Thank God for people like Mr. Roger Guyette and the idea of personal responsibility which has been shown by some of the victims.

God Bless America, God Save The Republic

At 9/25/2005 10:28 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Being a volunteer brings spiritual blessings for both volunteers and recipients. Remember the truth in "It is more blessed to give than to receive."

Furthermore, the personal touch promotes the spirit of community. The government touch, on the other hand, is a depersonalized approach and, if not a proper function of government (as in coordination and the granting of incentives), enables people to sit back and say, "I don't have to worry. The government will do this for me."

Any rebuilding effort requires the giver attitude. Both volunteers and victims can share that attitude in their respective situations.

At 9/25/2005 10:31 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

The situation in the Mississippi Gulf has become a political football. Disgusting and counterproductive!

At 9/25/2005 10:35 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

You and I have discussed this a bit over at Social Sense. Many of Franklin's published sayings apply to what's needed now for the rebuilding effort. People appreciate what people do as they chip in together and build with their own hands. What they get "for free" from the governmnent is never appreciated; rather government assistance is regarded as entitlement.

At 9/25/2005 10:37 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Kingdoms of all types are built a step at a time, not all at once. Building a spiritual kingdom requires that the love of God be communicated by helping our fellowman.

At 9/25/2005 10:39 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

I hope that you are accepted! The victims will benefit, and so will you.

At 9/25/2005 10:55 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

I'm not a fan of Donald Trump, but I think he's right about the government's proper role in the rebuilding effort. I saw him comment twice on this matter--one on Jay Leno's show and once on the morning news. Both times, I found myself nodding in agreement.

I agree with you that the government itself is not corrupt. But its inherent bureaucracy makes it lumbering and often ineffective. And bureaucrats themselves tend to be greedy; the temptation to line one's own pockets is just too great for many of them. If the government can step back, businesses will start the rebuilding in a way which will be more vital in the long run. As a nation, we have slipped into wanting instant results at every turn. And if we can't do it ourselves, we look to the government to do it for us. Big mistake!

This rebuild is going to take time, and Americans seem to have forgotten that "Rome wasn't built in a day."

I strongly disapprove of the distribution of FEMA debit cards. My mother-in-law didn't get any such card when her house burned down in the Altadena Wildfires of 1993; I've never known FEMA to be so indiscrimating. Why are they doing so now? Any time that taxpayers' funds are used, oversight of the use is imperative because of the great potential for abuse.

True service in a rebuilding effort requires individuals who are seen as individuals, not as a faceless government.

There are many such as Roger Guyette, and they make a real difference for themselves and for the victims. He personifies the pioneer barn-raising spirit, which we need right now in the Gulf area.

At 9/25/2005 10:56 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Yes, personal responsibility is the key. Had there been more of that attitude, the victims of the hurrican would've been fewer.

In whatever way each of us can, we must do something to help. It shouldn't be as easy as just writing a check to some charitable organization--though that is a start.

At 9/25/2005 12:32 PM, Blogger Bassizzzt said...

Wait and see how victimization plays a key role when people from New Orleans compare the relief efforts done to Texas with their relief efforts.

They will claim that the Texans got better relief because "it's Bush country" or something silly like that.

How do I feel sorry for someone who slaps a cold bottle of water out of a red cross volunteer's hand and demands a coke instead? How do I feel sorry for looters and rapists in the Superdome?

I owe people like that nothing.

You're dead on about victimization.

At 9/25/2005 2:04 PM, Blogger Esther said...

It will be hard to make comparisons between those affected by Rita and those by Katrina. Katrina was a much bigger storm. Though I'm sure that won't stop people from trying. Great post, AOW.

At 9/25/2005 2:58 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Those hurricane evacuees who maintain victim mentality will drain us financially dry if we let them. I hope there will be some kind of time limit on the handouts from taxpayers' funds.

Financial aid cannot continue indefinitely. The able-bodied will have to take responsibility for themselves, and that reality will probably mean starting over somewhere else. Somehow, vast numbers have to find the pioneer spirit; otherwise, they will forever be on the dole.

At 9/25/2005 3:14 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Yes, Rita was a smaller storm. But I noticed that the authorities in Texas did a better job of fulfilling their duty to their constituents.

What needed to be done in the Mississippi Gulf region wasn't done--longterm maintenance of levees and organized evacuation. And now that disaster has struck, the people from that area have to make difficult decisions, the first one being where to start over. But no matter where they decide to start over, there is no time for whining and self-pity.

I've lived through a few blizzards and a few hurricanes here--nothing as serious as Katrina, of course. Afterwards, one just has to suck it up and do what has to be done. It's hard work! "Money for a rainy day" takes on literal meaning, doesn't it? That was the only income we had to rely on during a cleanup effort.

But there was a good side to all the cleanup--neighbors united and became a community. None of us even thought of calling our local, state, or federal government to do something for us.

At 9/25/2005 9:23 PM, Blogger Bassizzzt said...

Here's an interesting question: where's the male population of what once was New Orleans? What's the percentages of the return rate to help rebuild?

Or is someone else from another state doing it for them?

That place will be a boondoggle for those in other states that are seeking work. Go to work for one of those big corportations and they will pay you big.

How does $67 bucks an hour sound? Only thing is, you'd be working and living out of a tent for a year, but you'd be making a killing. That's what they are paying you if you know how to run electrical and network wiring, mapping and punching down.

At 9/25/2005 9:35 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

I'd like to have the answers to the questions you posed in the first paragraph of your above comment. I, too, have noticed in news cover the lack of black males amongst the evacuees and the returnees.

We have a lot of evacuees in this area. Wanna bet how many come door to door in leaf-raking season? I'd hire somebody in a NY minute to do the most detestable job of the season.

Some building contractors follow the paths of hurricanes. These workers do indeed make good money. I ran into a few of them at the Outer Banks after Hurricane Isabel. They told me they always have steady and gainful employment.

$67/hour is excellent money, and if it attracts skilled labor, good! Just as long as that rate of pay is not subsidized by my tax dollar.

At 9/27/2005 4:42 PM, Blogger Mr. Ducky said...

Let's see, a major american city, the largest port in the nation and the fifth largest in the world, a major energy center and a cultural resource goes underwater and "Always On Watch for Arabs Under the Bed" decides that the rebuidling should be left to the whims of individual contributions. Otherwise it is "socialism".

Please define "socialism" AOWFAUTB. I say it is primarily an economic system that seperates distribution from production to avoid the structural inequities inherent in capitalism but I would really like you to inform us.

At 9/27/2005 7:11 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Mr. Ducky,
Socialism (which can be summed up in the catch phrase "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need") is an economic system in which the government controls a nation's means of production and distribution. In order to avoid the structural inequities to which you refer, extensive legislation, regulation, and taxation are required; those factors leave socialist nations open to dictatorship as a strong central government is needed to enforce the aforementioned measures.

I don't see that socialism is better than capitalism. Any equality achieved under socialism is artificial and stifles the individual's incentive and sense of responsibility because socialism emphasizes the welfare of the group and de-emphasizes the contributions of individuals.

Under socialism, the productive are penalized, and the unproductive are subsidized. Because humans are not perfect, such a situation is never desirable--certainly not now in a rebuilding effort in the Mississippi Gulf region. Any rebuilding will not be self-sufficient if its economic base is unsound.

The government didn't build New Orleans in the first place. Rather, the city evolved over a period of time as opportunities there presented themselves.

I didn't say that the rebuilding should be left to the whims of individuals. Part of the point of this blog article is that individuals like Roger Guyette selflessly provide a needed service. I did imply that indivduals can step forward, and thereby relieve the taxpayers' burden and prevent the kind of abuse which the willy-nilly distribution of taxpayer's monies encourages.

The government certainly has a role in the rebuilding efforts. The government cannot meet everyone's needs, however. To think so is to be an ignorant Pollyanna. Just look at the scope of this disaster!

PS: I am not always on watch for Islamists. I guess that you missed that underlying point in the posting of this particular article. No satisfying you, is there?

At 9/28/2005 11:08 AM, Blogger Mr. Ducky said...

Oh stop, Always on Watch(for what?). First you point to some yahoo who invokes the "socialist" bogey man as if the reconstruction and care of citizens weren't an expected, legitimate government function. Now if we leave it to individuals (i.e. corporations and the wealthy since they have the power) then you know dman well that the poor are going to get shut out. But I suspect you find that ok.

The vultures are already circling Gulfport in order to grab the coastal land for casinos (while repubs scream about the supreme court ruling in Connecticut). The people will be gone from coastal Mississippi just as they have been driven off areas that were hit by the sunami.

They will always be dependent on the crumbs people like you toss and they will remain poor often because you would no longer be able to clear your conscience in a more just system. You need the poor and you treat them like objects. We don't want to penalize the "producers". It truly is a gutter philosophy to compliment your gutter religion.

The struggle is eternal.

At 9/28/2005 7:50 PM, Anonymous Raven said...

Mr Ducky,
You seem to have a lack of knowledge about how people react to handouts. Some say "Thank you", and work hard to pay back to society the debt...

And others look at it as something they are entitled too. Americans don't mind helping each other out in times of trouble. It's how we got to be such a giving nation.

The "poor" people are never going to get themselves out of this situation so long as we keep handing them everything they need to survive. They must get out and work and earn the things they need and want.
Welfare and handouts do not stop poverty-they keep it alive and well.

At 9/29/2005 6:08 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Mr. Ducky,
They will always be dependent on the crumbs people like you toss.

If they continue to receive handouts, they will always be dependent on the crumbs the government tosses.

At 9/29/2005 6:08 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Welfare and handouts do not stop poverty-they keep it alive and well.

Agreed. The sense of entitlement discourages initiative. Getting a helping hand is a different matter, as you pointed out.

The able on the dole, be that dole the government's or the rich family member's, become reliant instead of being self-productive and taking charge of one's own life. It's a viscious circle for all involved, and I've seen it in my own family--on a small scale, of course.

The scope of the disaster in the Gulf is nearly unfathomable. Many have already decided to start over somewhere else. The ones who are waiting for the situation to be fixed are waiting in vain. Government fixes are supremely inadequate in many ways.

At 9/29/2005 11:02 AM, Blogger Mr. Ducky said...

Silly Always On Watch, my interest is not in government handouts, although that is necessary to some extent.

Rather I want government to be a mechanism that helps resolve the class conflicts inevitable in the laissez-faire hell you seem insistent in forcing on us.

Please remember your Marx. Marx's great contribution to economics was his analysis of capitalism and his prediction that it would collapse. It did in the first half of the 20th century(few economists disagree) and killed more people than the Communist bogey man you like to throw around. Killed more by far.

Now it is simply prudent that there be resistence to chuckleheads who want to undo the efforts to avoid that debacle and throw us right back in to the fire. Progress is possible but it will not come from your idea that the poor deserve there plight(and I mean worldwide). In the end you want the poor and even need the poor because you can give them something, feel superior and ease your conscience.

The bounty of the loaves and fishes can feed everyone but not while we have leeches like yourself and raven who believe that they are superior and taunt the poor with the occasional check while preserving a privileged position.

At 9/29/2005 6:01 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

I enjoy a privileged position??? Bwahahahaha! I'm hardly aristocracy.

Does using derogatory terms make you feel superior? You sprinkle your comments with insults.

I'm seeing that anyone who doesn't agree with you can't possibly hold a different opinion without being called names or insulted. Since your attitude is one of "my way or the highway," I choose to terminate this discussion.


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