Last week I wrote about a time when I hesitated, for selfish reasons, to give assistance to a boy who was half frozen with the cold. In response, my brother, Jay, who lives in California, sent me the following note:
“I had a similar experience many years ago in Torreon (Mexico) while traveling with Mom and Dad. I have told the story a few times while serving as the Regional Welfare Specialist for our church.
“Our favorite place to eat in Torreon was the Los Globos Restaurant. There we always ordered the enchiladas suizas. One day, as we ate, a shoe shine boy showed up, staring through the window. I was sitting next to the glass and became very conscious of his stare. He was shabbily dressed, and obviously hungry. I was self conscious about every bite I was taking, but I didn’t know what to do about it.
“Then Dad motioned for the boy to come into the restaurant. He came in and Dad had him shine his shoes and then asked him to shine each of our shoes. Dad paid him and added a small tip. Then he told the boy to sit at the empty table next to ours and instructed the waiter to give him anything he wanted to order. I overheard Dad tell Mom, ‘I don’t want to turn him into a beggar.’
“That comment stuck with me all these years, and I didn’t really understand it until I was called as the Regional Welfare Specialist. During my training, I was informed that I should expect people to perform some labor—mental, physical or spiritual—for what they received.”
Jay’s story brought to mind a Readers Digest article I read back in the 1960s. It told of a huge fish processing plant on one of the U.S. coasts. Great barges loaded with fish by-products were towed out to sea where they were dumped into the ocean. Thousands of seagulls would swarm around the barges and the piers where the fish were either processed or the waste discarded in order to gorge on the bounty that was there for the taking. This went on for many years.
When the plant was forced to close and the abundant supply of freebies ended, the seagulls died by the thousands—starved to death because they did not know how to fend for themselves like so many of their kind elsewhere did routinely every day.
“I build walls, dig ditches, make bridges, and do a great amount and variety of labour that is of but little consequence only to provide ways and means for sustaining and preserving the destitute,” said Brigham Young. “I annually expend hundreds and thousands of dollars almost solely to furnish employment to those in want of labour. Why?
“I have potatoes, flour, beef, and other articles of food, which I wish my brethren to have; and it is better for them to labour for those articles, so far as they are able and have opportunity, than to have them given to them. They work, and I deal out provisions, often when the work does not profit me.” (Journal of Discourses, 1860)
John Taylor said, “I believe that labor is the manufacturer of wealth. It is ordained of God as the medium to be used to obtain a living. God never meant to demean His creation because they had to labor. God himself, according to the Good Book, labored on this world six days before resting for a day. We are bound to honor the laboring man and to despise the idler.” John Taylor, 1844)
There are many who are depending on Congress to provide them with financial insurance from the cradle to the grave. Harold B. Lee said, “Men who are dreaming of that kind of security are not the kind of men who pioneered this country and explored the unknown. They are not the ones who built the world of today nor will they be the builders of the ‘new’ world of tomorrow of which they speak. They are, as someone has said, ‘only tenants in houses of other men’s dreams.’”