You know we’re living in a backwards time when soup kitchens can’t give food to the homeless. However, that’s exactly what happened inShreveport, Louisiana recently when it was discovered that the Shreve-Boussier Rescue mission was serving venison to its patrons. Reportedly, 1,600 pounds of deer meat were destroyed by health officials, because it is unlawful to serve deer meat commercially. The meat, which was donated by Hunters for the Hungry (a charity organization in existence since 1993 that allows hunters to donate meat to the needy), was dumped into a dumpster and doused in Clorox, to ensure that not even animals might eat it.
My husband was flabbergasted when I told him about this. He is an avid hunter and yearly stocks our freezer with venison from his hunts. He is so committed to providing for the family, in fact, that when we lost power last fall for 4 days after a freak October snow storm, he installed a generator just to ensure we wouldn't lose the contents of the freezer. We eat it regularly - sometimes too regularly for my taste. But hey, it's high in protein and low in fat, and if you know how to prepare it, it can be delicious. And if you have a moral objection to meat, you can trust at least that the deer we eat lived their lives in their natural habitat, were never fed hormones or chemicals, and died quickly (in most cases - my husband has been known to pick up road kill if it's still warm). I guess our private dietary practices are not really the point.
I don’t really know what to make of this story. On one hand, I understand that regulations are regulations, and that we must ensure the safety of our meat. It’s difficult to track deer hunted and donated in this manner. Nobody wants a revisit to Upton Sinclair’s Jungle. I’m pretty sure everyone is on board with the Meat Inspection Act (you can thank Teddy Roosevelt for being able to trust you’re not eating rat when you purchase a pound of ground beef at the grocery store). However, I really believe there is a larger problem at hand.
The health officials were tipped off by a homeless person who complained about being served deer meat. To me, this is the epitome of American entitlement and oblivion. What a world we live in, when a person who survives on the charity of others attempts to determine how it should be given. I suppose beggars really can be choosers. At least, they can be whistle blowers when our government is bloated and involved enough to dictate the actions of a privately run charitable organization. I find it particularly disconcerting that this person could not just thank the people who donated time (and venison) to help him. I would like to hope that if I were to need the services of such an organization, I would be thankful to be fed, instead of taking it upon myself to critique a soup kitchen's menu.
There are a lot of Americans out there who want to help others, but Jesus, sometimes it’s hard. We’re living in dire times, economically and morally. It’s a sad and dangerous day when the government overtly seeks to discourage charity.
I gave a bum a dollar the other day. I can’t remember the last time I had done that. I hate to admit it, but I’m pretty sure it was sometime in college, and I made the bum pose in a picture with me before I handed it over. Not cool, I know. There have been many times since then, however, that I have given food to bums. Call me heartless, but I never considered the level of sophistication of said bum’s palate before handing over the bagel. To me, what was satisfying was the simple act of helping someone – not the idea that I catered precisely to the recipient’s tastes. Will people still want to be charitable if the feel-good aspect of it is taken away?
I wrote recently about the awesome willingness of strangers to help others when help is needed. Friends, I do believe it is as important as ever to help others. The powers that be are making it harder and harder, when many people need your help more and more. That being said, we should remember that we are all, at some point, the recipients of another’s kindness. It may not be a free meal, but chances are someone does something nice for you on a fairly regular basis. Let’s not (myself included) forget to say thank you. They are simple words, and they go a long way.