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Is it better to give than to receive?

Lead Summary
Editor's note: Jim Thompson's column will resume in a few months. Meanwhile, The Highland County Press is republishing some of "the best of" his columns. This one was first published in December 2012.

By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist

Ida Thompson, my grandmother, lived to be 100 years and 10 days old, dying in 1982. Her husband was killed in 1930. She lived as a widow for 52 of her 100 years. She never worked outside the home, but raised a garden, chopped wood and did what she could to keep her household of six kids afloat.

My Aunt Jessie, a single woman, provided the cash in their tiny household from a garment sewing job. Upon my aunt's retirement, thanks to the great negotiating skills of the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union, she received a pension of around $70 per month for a lifetime of faithful service. This was in the 1990s.

We were visiting them one time when I was a boy. Their old refrigerator was on the fritz. My dad offered to buy them a new one. The reaction from my aunt was such that you would have thought he had said he was going to take her to Times Square and strip her naked. To say she was offended would be a terrific understatement.

Today, few are offended by handouts. In fact today, if you offered to buy someone a simple refrigerator, they would probably want to know why it did not have an ice-maker and water dispenser in the door.

Now, to a really sore subject with most people. I am a real tither (not like one of my pastors said one time, "Our people are all 'tithers' – they give 10 percent of what they pledge").

Over the years, I have learned that giving generously, well beyond the Old Testament command when possible, brings more pleasure than about anything else. I leave money lying around everywhere, to the point of being a spendthrift. This act is selfish in its own funny way – it brings me great joy.

Now, I am only telling you this for one reason – to express, again, the tremendous joy of giving. I don't give until it hurts, I give until it's fun.

And it makes no matter how much you have. I did this when I had less than $300 per month left for groceries, gasoline and car payments – in today's dollars. If you think this is something only "rich" people can do, you are mistaken.

The socialist federal government under which we live today has stolen the joy of giving from us.

Moving from the idea of just supporting people until they get on their feet to the concept that everyone has a "right" to nearly everything has made us into a nation of crabby, ugly people.

It has stolen the surprising joy of giving from those who would, if it were not that they have unwittingly allowed the government to steal this joy from them. (Why help your neighbor when the government will?)

On the path to taking the inalienable rights to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" to the rights of ______ (fill in the blank), we as a nation have destroyed the root of happiness.

Everyone is comparing what the government has given them to what the government has given their neighbors. Inevitably, the comparison comes up short and leaves us jealous.

I have mentioned in the past couple of weeks my recent annual trip to Guatemala. I am struck by how happy and industrious these very poor people are. They don't have the concept of "rights" to everything like we have here. And without that, they have no reason to not be happy – or generous.

Two little boys, who wanted to shine my shoes are a good example. They wanted 10 "Qs" (Quatzales) to shine my shoes. At roughly 8 Qs to the dollar, that is $1.25. I paid them 140 Qs.

They are about 10 years old. And later in the day, I was sitting in a pastry shop by myself eating a piece of cake. They saw me and were politely staring at the cake. I asked them if they would like a piece. The answer, of course, was "yes."

So I bought them each a big piece of chocolate cake and a glass of milk. I was sitting there watching them eat the cake, enjoying every minute of the sheer joy on their faces. I asked them if their mother had ever made chocolate cake. They said no, but they had had a little piece at school one time.

Then, when I thought it couldn't get any better, something amazing happened. Another little boy, one of their friends, came along. Without hesitation, they each took their fork, cut a generous piece off their cake and gave it to the third boy.

Among the many things the federal government has taken from us, the joy of giving may just be the most serious.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga., following decades of wandering the world, and is a columnist for The Highland County Press.

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