Penury duty

Jim and Tammy Bakker at the height of their prosperity
Jim and Tammy Bakker at the height of their prosperity

“It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s. Mine occupies me constantly.” – Ebeneezer Scrooge.


” Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” Luke 6:38 (King James)


“We want you to send the most sacrificial gift possible. We want, if possible, you’d have it mailed in your local post office, because we need a financial miracle, postmarked before Friday, July 31, or this ministry will be severely damaged.” Jerry Falwell, July 29, 1987, attempting to raise $1.74 million to keep open the Heritage U.S.A. theme park he’d recently taken over from disgraced televangelists Jim & Tammy Bakker.


Reading Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed this week, I’m reminded for the ‘leventy-millionth time (and it’s good to be so) how dumb-luck lucky I’ve been all my pampered bourgeois life. I’ve had no experience with hunger or financial uncertainty. I’ve never had to choose between paying the rent and buying the groceries. I’ve never felt discriminated against or limited in any way by being who or what I am.

I was fortunately born of parents who also were fortunately born, though to a lesser degree. All of us solidly middle class from cradle to grave. My grandparents, who lived through the Depression, knew some difficulty, but to my knowledge there are no Grapes of Wrath passages in my family history.

A few days ago, a young man approached me while I was reading in a public square and said, “Excuse me, sir. I just got here on the bus and …”

“Wait,” I said, “I think you’re about to ask me for help, aren’t you?”

A pause. “Yes, sir.”

“I’m not going to do that for you, but I wish you well.”

He stared at me for a moment. Then, “God bless you,” and walked away.

Why didn’t I offer him breakfast? Why is my first impulse whenever anybody approaches me like that to hug everything I own close to my chest?


Still, in a broader sense, I feel a need to recycle karma. (Not a duty, but a need.) So why don’t I do it? Same old story.

Think, Tim, think. Where to begin? Soup kitchen? Habitat for Humanity? That guy who was asking for my help a few days ago?

I should be opening my pockets or my arms or something. Salt losing its flavor am I. Damn these biblical metaphors for being so spot on.