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The curse of the do-gooders

Humbug! The letter to the editor I read today was from a man who will no longer do business at grocery stores or other outlets that permit panhandling by some guy in a red outfit and ringing a ridiculous bell while begging for "hard earned money so they can give it to people who do not work as hard as I do." He called the practice an annoying racket and harassment of would-be shoppers.

This is the curse of the do-gooders. What an irritation these bleeding hearts can be, especially during the holiday season. In the same paper I saw several examples of the same nonsense.

One story featured a 76-year-old grandmother who wasted her time for two or three hours each week rocking premature babies in the neonatal intensive care unit of a hospital. She was quoted as saying, "The parents can't be here all the time. If I can fill that little need of nurturing, it makes my day," and she considers herself "blessed." Isn't that sweet?

Then there was the article "Wishes Granted for Area Families" about a program with "wish lists" of families-in-need coordinated by the YMCA "adopt a family" program for mothers and children in a transitional housing situation -- between homeless shelter and apartment. The YMCA is looking for individuals, families, businesses or groups to donate Christmas gifts or their hard earned money to "adopt" these families at a cost of about $75 per family member adopted, so it would cost $225 to adopt a mother and two children. They call it "giving back to the community."

On another page was another story of a bleeding heart do-gooder. A young mother had her apartment and all her goods destroyed by fire. That same day she and her daughter had nothing but the clothes on their back. They went to a discount store to pick up some basic items. As the mother was checking out, a young man named John gave her $48 left on his purchases and told the clerk to apply the money to the mother's bill. Then he asked if she and her daughter had a place to stay for the night. He was willing to open his heart to strangers. Then he helped her out to the car, helped her put the bags in her truck, hugged her and told her he would be praying for her, her daughter and her dog. Sounds like John was a sucker for a sob story.

Do do-gooders really do good? If you sleep in a cardboard box to raise money for the homeless and hungry will the homeless and hungry really find food and shelter? If you travel to Guatemala to provide glasses and eye-care or medical care for the poor will it make any difference? Can anybody in America really do anything about the poor children of the world? Does it do any good to have meals on Thanksgiving and Christmas for the hungry or are all these do-good projects just feel-good going-through-the-motions gestures to salve your conscience because you have it better than those poor creatures in far away lands?

There is another view to consider. Ayn Rand wrote two huge books, "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged." Her philosophy was called objectivism, which essentially was self interest -- that is, neither sacrificing yourself for others or sacrificing others for yourself. In "Atlas Shrugged," her leading character, John Galt, summed up the "top dog/me first" attitude as follows:

"The man at the top of the intellectual pyramid contributes the most to all those below him, but gets nothing but his material payment ... The man at the bottom who, left to himself would starve in his hopeless ineptitude, contributes nothing to those above him, but receives the bonus of all their brains. Such is the nature of the competition of the strong and the weak of the intellect. Such is the nature of the 'exploitations' for which you have damned the strong."

So if we are annoyed by the bell ringing and begging of do-gooders, especially during the holiday season, we can just become objectivists and walk by them without a nod, hang on to our hard earned money, and take care of ourselves and our own. Oh -- and happy holidays.