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That expression has come to signify a person of privilege completely out of touch with common people. “Cake? Okay, queenie. How about we address the hunger first?” But we can do better. Why not cake?
Roger Scruton noted that the “form follows function” philosophy of architecture is mistaken when “function” neglects the constant human desire for beauty. In “Why Beauty Matters,” he referred to studies showing that the productivity of laborers is improved by working in beautiful settings. Modern architects were not wrong to emphasize utility. They were only misled to believe that beauty is a frivolous addition, rather than a practical aspect.
Similarly, Mother Theresa of Calcutta frequently reminded her admirers, both faithful and secular, that her service to the poor was not primarily material. Above all, she emphasized the need for people to feel loved and appreciated. It would not suffice to feed the hungry and mend the sick. They need smiles and laughter, touch and sincere conversation, so that charity can be accepted not as a burden or cold duty but as a gift of personal concern and communion.
For practical efficiency, we often structure our gift-giving by division into bare necessities. “I could give this cause $100. But I could give to 5 causes if I give $20 each.” We send rice and dry goods. We donate old clothes.
All gifts are helpful, of course. Sometimes the most basic are the most appreciated. Sometimes only certain things will survive the journey.
But people don’t live on spreadsheets. We internalize the differences between a wave and a hug, between a simple loaf of bread and a delicious cake. Sometimes, at least, give your best.Published in