Category Archives: charity

On dignity, love, and philanthropy

On dignity, love, and philanthropy

Mark Butler and Graham Philpott, Church Land Programme, October 2012.

Input presented by Graham to the panel on “Faith communities, philanthropy and social change: A giant awakes?” at the African Grant Makers Network’s “Growing African Philanthropy” event.

The burn of a ‘false generosity’

In John Steinbeck’s seminal novel of the Great Depression, The Grapes of Wrath (1939), a character called Annie Littlefield says:

If a body’s ever took charity, it makes a burn that don’t come out. … [I]f you ever took it, you don’t forget it… I did, … Las’ winter; an’ we was a starvin’—me an’ Pa an’ the little fellas. An’ it was a-rainin’. Fella tol’ us to go to the Salvation Army.” Her eyes grew fierce. “We was hungry — they made us crawl for our dinner. They took our dignity. They — I hate ’em!” … Her voice was fierce and hoarse. “I hate ’em,” she said. “I ain’t never seen my man beat before, but them — them Salvation Army done it to ‘im. ‘They took our dignity’.

It is not about what they gave, but more deeply about what they took – they
took our dignity. Is it about how they gave, their stipulations, their intentions, the amount, the frequency, the conditionalities? Maybe – but more profoundly, it is about what they took – they took our dignity, and my man was beat. There is no awakening giant here – just a man beaten and Annie Littlefield. Continue reading