Column: Live lives charitably

Column: Live lives charitably

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Dan Lee

During crises such as the pandemic we are now experiencing, we discover what sort of people we really are. Are we compassionate, caring people who are concerned about the well-being of our friends and neighbors? Or are we self-centered people who lash out at others, making derogatory comments dripping with sarcasm? Fortunately, here in the Quad Cities there are far more of the former than the latter. That is why this is such a good place to live.

This is a community that takes being charitable seriously. Two prime examples of this are the River Bend Foodbank, and the Quad Cities Disaster Recovery Fund, a joint project of the Quad Cities Community Foundation, United Way of the Quad Cities and the Regional Development Authority.

The River Bend Foodbank helps individuals and families in Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois who lack the financial resources to buy healthy, nutritious food — food needs that have been exacerbated by the economic collapse precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The River Bend Foodbank welcomes contributions of canned food and other non-perishable items, as well as financial contributions.

The Quad Cities Disaster Recovery Fund supports community groups and organizations that are helping people in our community deal with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes community groups and organizations that are implementing health and safety measures, helping deal with economic distress and responding to needs for supportive services.

The sponsoring organizations welcome contributions to the Quad Cities Disaster Recovery Fund. Quad City residents have responded, contributing more than $1 million to the fund. One hundred percent of all donations go via grants to groups and organizations that help people in our community. An accelerated grant schedule gets the money to qualifying groups and organizations as quickly as possible.

Helping those in need is part of what charity involves — but only part. Being charitable also involves the way we treat those whose lives intersect with ours.

I think, for example, of Martin Luther’s commentary on the Eighth Commandment in his Small Catechism (which I was required to memorize when I went through the confirmation program at the country church in which I was both baptized and confirmed.)

The Eighth Commandment states, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbors."

Luther states that we should not "tell lies about our neighbors, betray or slander them, or destroy their reputations." He continues, "Instead we are to come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light."

Some pretty good advice. It would be nice if folks on both sides of the aisle at the highest levels of government would follow this advice.

Unfortunately, that is probably more than we can hope for. This does not mean, however, that we should not try as best we can to live our own lives in a charitable manner.

There is an important dynamic that is operative here. There is a certain sense in which we all need charity. This is not to suggest that we all should be entitled to receive food from the local food bank. Most of us have plenty to eat and have no need for food assistance.

Rather, what is at stake here is that we all like to be treated in a charitable manner, with others putting the most charitable construction on what we say and do. When we treat others in a charitable manner, it is often the case that they reciprocate by treating us in a charitable manner. That is a win-win situation for everyone involved.

And so in this time of crisis, let us commit ourselves to living lives of charity. Lives of charity that involve helping those in need. Lives of charity that involve treating all those whose lives intersect with ours in a charitable manner.

Dan Lee is the Marian Taft Cannon Professor in the Humanities at Augustana College; danlee@augustana.edu.

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