In So Many Words

Books of Educational and Informational Comics from Larry Paros


Book IX: The Sweet Buy and Buy (Economics)

Sweet Charity

Words travel a funny path. Take charity. Please, take it...

An old Biblical favorite, the concept of charity originally referred to Christian love between man and God and man and neighbor. During the early 14th century, however, its scope began to narrow, giving rise to "Charity began at home" as well as its darker variation, "Charity and beating begin at home."

Over the years the concept became institutionalized, and new expressions arose, like "cold as charity," a stark reversal of the word's original intent. It arose from people's prolonged dealings with charitable institutions and what the charitable act felt like to the recipients — and the only way open to them to express their feelings of wounded self-respect and loss of dignity.

The word has over the years become so compromised that even the recipients themselves now reject what was once our most universal expression of love and care. "Don't want any charity," they say.

The same holds for welfare. Welfare originally meant a "good journey" or "safe arrival," and later conveyed "prosperity" and even "merrymaking."

For most welfare recipients, the road to self-respect is hardly a smooth journey. In no sense, can anyone traveling that road be said to have ever actually "arrived." And there is little merrymaking in the process.

The popular perception of welfare, however, speaks to the contrary — a parade of spongers engaged in prolonged partying.

Welfare, like charity, has also apparently lost its way.