Although drug smugglers, criminals and perhaps terrorists are taking advantage of the legal anarchy, the vast majority are poor people seeking a better life. Only a heart of stone would feel no twinge of compassion. But, as with legal precedents, hard cases make bad laws. Without concern for consequences, seemingly compassionate actions can harm more than help.
A friend who goes to Africa to assist missionaries in relieving poverty and sharing the Gospel told me that some actions by the U.S. government and even private philanthropic groups make things worse. A case in point is dumping food into drought-stricken areas dotted with hardscrabble farmers. If it isn’t handled right, the farmers go out of business, and famine returns with a vengeance.
It’s not enough to feel good about doing good; we’re responsible for seeing that we help more than hurt. The late, great Michael Schwartz, a conservative, pro-life activist, gave me a lesson in this one day as we walked to lunch from the Heritage Foundation, where I worked at the time.
Although we had a narrow window, Mike stopped when a homeless man approached us to panhandle. Instead of rushing by, Mike patiently talked with him, but turned down repeated requests for money. It was obvious the man wanted to buy another bottle. Mike took him to a nearby café and bought him some food.
As we walked back from our own lunch, Mike railed at the inhumanity of the welfare system; how it robs people of their charitable impulses and hurts the poor at the same time. Jesus, he explained, cared enough to set people on the right path, not lead them astray to make Himself feel good. Mike had let the homeless man know that he, the sandwich buyer, was merely a vehicle for the love of God. Mike hoped the man would realize his own worth and perhaps find the strength to take a different path.
Kindness is catching. The sheer decency of the people in that Maine parking lot left us feeling blessed instead of delayed. They wanted to help us get back on the road, not keep us dependent on their largesse.
The obvious, though not easy, answer to the man-made disaster unfolding in Texas is to secure the border and ship back the illegal immigrants as humanely as possible. It begins with re-establishing the rule of law, without which more misery will flourish.
We can’t solve all the world’s problems, but we can surely make them worse with misguided compassion.
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