Christmas giving to families, especially those with small children, brings out the best in most people but the circumstances surrounding some of the recipients often become an aggravation to some of us who give.

The Bible says in Mark 14:7 that the poor will always be with us, regardless of where we live.

We also know that the Lord expects us to lend a helping hand to those in need. I have found that a “hand-up” is far better than a handout.

My grandmother liked to say that the Lord must love poor folks because he made so many of them, herself included.

But, actually, she was a person of means who had grown up poor but married a smart, hardworking man who provided a good living with plenty left over for her to give to the less fortunate.

She fed other families from her own kitchen during the Great Depression and she constantly badgered my grandfather, a brick plant manager, to provide extra work opportunities to preserve the pride and dignity of the husbands and fathers of the families she helped.

As I pondered the reasons why poverty has become multi-generational, it struck me that few, if any, of the children from those families helped by my grandparents grew up to be poor themselves.

So what made them different from the two and three generations of poverty we see today in some families?

Two factors loom large – work ethic and education – in their success.

All of them finished high school and landed solid jobs. They all worked at home. The daughters learned cooking and other domestic skills.

Several siblings had to leave home to find the best job opportunities but their strong family ties remained intact. Frankly, I have no sympathy or empathy today for the able-bodied, reasonably intelligent folks who expect the rest of us to feed them, clothe them, house them and, in many cases, to even bury them.

Instead, they should learn how to cook instead of buying fast or packaged convenience food, how to find and keep a job, how to shop for what they can afford in clothes and housing, how to maintain a vehicle and how to live without video games.

As we help the poor throughout the year, perhaps we should kindly remind them that the Lord also helps those who help themselves.

Keith Kappes can be reached at or by telephone at 356-0912.

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