Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Least of These

31When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory: 32And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats: 33And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

34Then shall the King say to them on his right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35For I was an hungered, and you gave me meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me drink: I was a stranger, and you took me in: 36Naked, and you clothed me: I was sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me. 37Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we you an hungered, and fed you? or thirsty, and gave you drink? 38When saw we you a stranger, and took you in? or naked, and clothed you? 39Or when saw we you sick, or in prison, and came to you? 40And the King shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me.

41Then shall he say also to them on the left hand, Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42For I was an hungered, and you gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink: 43I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and you visited me not. 44Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we you an hungered, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to you? 45Then shall he answer them, saying, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me. 46And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

Matthew 25:31-46 KJV

I generally don't start out my posts with long quotes from the Bible (or any other book, for that matter), but there is a specific reason in this case. The Moose Lodge that Debbie and I belong to just had our big kick-off event for the East Pasco Toys for Tots on Saturday. The event was successful beyond anything we could have possibly imagined. We're not entirely sure how many people came through the lodge during the 12-hour event, but we started with 350 wrist bands, then had to send someone on an emergency run for 500 more. Monday morning when the administrator and myself were sorting through the debris, we found a couple dozen wrist bands left over. We thought the original 350 bands would be more than enough. Shows what we know.

In any case, the event was a band marathon running from noon to midnight. We ended up with 18 bands participating. Half were rock bands that we ran on the social quarters side of the lodge, and the other half were country-western and/or oldies acts that we put on the hall side. Both sides were filled to capacity for most of the day. The event was open to the public with admission being either an unwrapped new toy, or a minimum $5 donation. Once you were inside, we had several 50/50 raffles every hour and an entire banquet table of stuff that people had donated that was also being raffled off. In short, the money was really flowing in, and so were the toys.

This is the first of five fundraising events that our lodge is hosting for Toys for Tots between last Saturday and our big, grand finale Christmas Ball on December 12. Our goal was to collect $20,000 in toys and cash. At Saturday's band marathon, we came close to half our goal. Everyone is really stoked about that, as am I.

But I'm also not. Allow me to explain. Yes, it's great we set an ambitious goal, a goal that is much higher than anything we've raised in the past for Toys for Tots. It's fantastic that we look to easily beat that goal. However, before we dislocate our collective shoulders patting ourselves on the back, lets do a little basic arithmetic. Our lodge and chapter have well over 3,000 members between them. I realize that number includes people who are not active and will likely allow their dues to expire next time they come due. And that some of those members are physically or mentally incapacitated and can't realistically be expected to participate in lodge activities. But I think I'm on fairly solid ground when I say that at least 2,000 of them do not fall into either of those categories. (If I'm wrong, I'm sure someone will quickly set me straight. There are people in the lodge who love nothing better than to correct everyone else, and as a natural-born people-pleaser, I try to make everyone happy.) So we'll use 2,000 as the number of active members. A mere $20 per member is not $20,000. It's $40,000.

No matter how you slice it, if you are an active member of a fraternity, $20 is chump change. It's the loose change in your car's ashtray. It's less than you spend every Saturday at Steak Nite. It's the $20 that you just stuck in the pull tab machine or used to buy another round of drinks. I'm not asking for $20 every week, or even every month. All I'm asking for is $20 once a year.

So here it is: I'm issuing a challenge to the members of the Zephyrhills Moose Lodge 2276 and Women of the Moose Chapter 1682 to raise $40,000 in cash plus toys for the East Pasco Toys for Tots for Christmas 2015.

Now lets take a minute to back up and explain the relevance of that long quote at the start of the post. At the beginning of every men's meeting in every Moose lodge, there's this little bit where a guy opens a Bible and declares, "This is the Holy Bible; our inspiration and our guide." Well, that quote is certainly part of the Bible and therefore, is to be considered an inspiration and guide to anyone who is a member. (I'm assuming that the women's meetings have something similar. Never having been to one of their meetings, I can't say for sure. Again, if my assumption is wrong, I'm certain that I shall be set aright.) The writer of the Gospel of Matthew is pretty clear about what we are to do, whom we are to do it for, and what the consequences are if we fail to do so.

[Side note: Yes, I am aware that certain factions of Christianity have a real problem with this passage. As someone who spent the first forty years of his life in one of those factions, I've heard all the overly-intellectualized meanderings I care to listen to as to why this passage isn't saying what it obviously is. So please... just... ya know, don't.]

I know that it is popular just now in these united States to blame the poor for their plight. Anyone with several hours to spare can ask me what I think about that particular bit of neo-liberal bullshit. Regardless, we are not talking about adults; we are discussing children. No child has ever asked to be hungry, naked or homeless. However much we may choose to blame their parents, I see no rational way the parents' "sins" can be imputed to the children, and I'm quite sure I don't want to be associated with anyone who would even dare make the attempt.

And because this is the internet, I need to include the following:

Dear Dick from the Internet,

Nothing in this post should be construed as a criticism of what our lodge has done for Toys for Tots (or any other charity) in prior years. If my wife and I were not impressed with how much the lodge has done and is doing in East Pasco, we wouldn't be members. All I'm saying is that it is not just possible, but falling-off-a-log simple to do so much more.

And yes I understand how poor you are and how dare I ask for money so some poors can have a better Christmas than your own kids. All I can say to that is you have a computer and internet access. If your kids have a crappy Christmas, you need to rethink your priorities.


And before this turns into a book, I'll wrap up with this:

C'mon Zephyrhills Lodge! Lets Loose the Moose!!

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