When Is a Gimme Not a Gimmick?
Dear old and new friends,
No one wants to be a sucker. That’s why we usually give a stone face and ears to the street beggar asking us for money since we don’t want to be hoodwinked by his scam. Ah, panhandlers and beggars today come to our door almost endlessly by telephone solicitations, mail promotions showing color photos of suffering children, charity pleas from churches and religious groups, and run-and-donate marathons for various diseases. Each of them saying, “Gimme some of your money for….”
A gimmick is slang for any device use to cheat or deceive. It’s not only the sad-faced panhandler in old rumpled clothing with his gimmick who can deceive you; four major cancer charities were recently exposed by federal authorities for stealing millions of dollars from donors! Only a tiny trickle of that money went to cancer research, the vast majority going to extravagant salaries, large bonuses and lavish lifestyles of the scammers.
Who can you trust? Just because the begging is by a church, TV preacher, religious charity, educational or arts foundation, your money can likely not be used as you were led to believe. Each of us lives in a winner or loser society. So we never want to be a loser in card games or charity. The giving of alms to the poor is a major requirement of faithful Muslims and an essential part of a good spirituality since it was encouraged by the Master. So how do we avoid being “taken in”?
Remember those movies where the hero is going down a narrow street in some Arabian city and beggars sitting along the street cry out, “For the love of Allah, alms.” There’s the secret! The money is given as a love gift to God; so regardless how clever the gimmick you never can be a loser or sucker when you give to the Risen Christ in the poor petitioner. Your money to build or remodel your church is given not to your church or some charitable institution, but to God. Then if your church closes down you haven’t wasted your money to help build or remodel it. The same is equally true of the “gimme” street beggar; even if he isn’t actually broke, hungry or homeless your gift to him really isn’t to him but to the Divine Beloved. A frequently repeated complaint is, “Religion is all about money.” Yes, that’s true…it is about how to give it away!
If you are a non-believer or non-affiliated with a religion (56 million), according to a recent Pew Research Center in America poll you now belong to the second largest group (in numbers) behind evangelicals, and I will share a secret with you: By giving ever more lavishly you are inwardly changed. So the next time anyone pleads “Gimme,” be foolishly generous, and your life will be greatly enhanced.
Tallulah Bankhead, a famous movie actress of the 1930’s and 40’s, was renowned for her flamboyant lifestyle. One day she dropped a $50 dollar bill (back then that was a lot of money) into the jingling tambourine held out to her by a man in the Salvation Army. Tallulah waved away his expressions of gratitude saying, “Don’t bother to thank me. I know what a perfectly ghastly season it’s been for you Spanish dancers”!