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THE promoter of organized charity protests against “the wasteful and mischievous method of undirected relief.” He means, naturally, relief that is not directed by somebody else than the person giving it–undirected by him and his kind–professional almoners–philanthropists who deem it more blessed to allot than to bestow. Indubitably much is wasted and some mischief done by indiscriminate giving–and individual givers are addicted to that faulty practice. But there is something to be said for “undirected relief” quite the same. It blesses not only him who receives (when he is worthy; and when he is not upon his own head be it), but him who gives. To those uncalculating persons who, despite the protests of the organized charitable, concede a certain moral value to the spontaneous impulses of the heart and read in the word “relief” a double meaning, the office of the mere distributor is imperfectly sacred. He is even without scriptural authority, and lives in the perpetual challenge of a moral quo warranto. Nevertheless he is not without his uses. He is a tapper of tills that do not open automatically. He is almoner to the uncompassionate, who but for him would give no alms. He negotiates unnatural but not censurable relations between selfishness and ingratitude. The good that he does is purely material. He makes two leaves of fat to grow where but one grew before, lessens the sum of gastric pangs and dorsal chills. All this is something, certainly, but it generates no warm and elevated sentiments and does nothing in mitigation of the poor’s animosity to the rich. Organized charity is a sapid and savorless thing; its place among moral agencies is no higher than that of root beer.

Christ did not say “Sell whatsoever thou hast and give to the church to give to the poor.” He did not mention the Associated Charities of the period. I do not find the words “The Little Sisters of the Poor ye have always with you,” nor “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these Dorcas societies ye have done it unto me.” Nowhere do I find myself commanded to enable others to comfort the afflicted and visit the sick and those in prison. Nowhere is recorded God’s blessing upon him who makes himself a part of a charity machine–no, not even if he be the guiding lever of the whole mechanism.

Organized charity is a delusion and a snare. It enables Munniglut to think himself a good man for paying annual dues and buying transferable meal tickets. Munniglut is not thereby, a good man. On the Last Great Day, when he cowers in the Ineffable Presence and is asked for an accounting it will not help him to say, “Hearing that A was in want I gave money for his need to B.” Nor will it help B to say, “When A was in distress I asked C to relieve him, and myself allotted the relief according to a resolution of D, E and F.”

There are blessings and benefactions that one would willingly forego–among them the poor. Quack remedies for poverty amuse; a real specific would kindle a noble enthusiasm. Yet the world would lose much by it; human nature would suffer a change for the worse. Happily and unhappily poverty is not abolishable: “The poor ye have always with you” is a sentence that can never become unintelligible. Effect of a thousand causes, poverty is invincible, eternal. And since we must have it let us thank God for it and avail ourselves of all its advantages to mind and character. He who is not good to the deserving poor–who knows not those of his immediate environment, who goes not among them making inquiry of their personal needs, who does not wish with all his heart and both his hands to relieve them–is a fool.