Friday, January 13, 2012

begging letters

It has been my lot ever since being ordained to receive begging letters, by post and email. Perhaps that is the case for all clergy. Why I can't think - I thought everyone knew that clergy are not exactly rich. But perhaps it is that the senders hope we will be a 'soft touch.'

Alas, I am afraid I am cynical when it comes to these communications. If I sent even a small amount of money in response to each of these messages - that invariably begins with 'Dear brother in Christ' before going on to recount in detail a tale of woe - then I would find it difficult to feed my children.

Luckily for my bank balance (and my family's food budget!) I find it difficult to believe any of the stories I am told. Just today I received one purporting to be from a student nurse in Africa. 'She' gave the whole sad story of how her single mother had raised her, struggling to educate her, only to be struck down by cancer, leaving her 'daughter' now in urgent need of funds.

I almost tossed the letter straight into the re-cycling bin, my usual course of action. Today I paused. What if there was some truth in it this time? I noticed she mentioned the name of the nursing school. I googled it. It did not exist. And so my cynicism about such missives was confirmed. The sad truth is that the only way to be sure that one is not being scammed is to channel charitable giving through reputable charities.

We are called to pray for such people. And so we should. The letters they send are evil.  It is wicked to try to prey on the generosity of others with these false stories. Not least because they mean that genuine appeals for help may be ignored. Thus they harm their brothers and sisters in need and place their own souls in danger. pray for them ... and pray for those they harm, that their cries for help will not go unanswered. Amen.

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