Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Haven House Revisited

HARBESON: Reflections on my Haven House column

JEFFERSONVILLE — Every once in a while, after writing about a specific topic, I sometimes wonder if I should have just kept my mouth shut. When this happens, I always know exactly what to do: Keep spouting off about the issue.

The specific column I’m referring to is one I wrote in September about Haven House. I did not expect the reaction I received after stating that I cannot in good conscience contribute to an organization that does not appear to be under competent financial management.

The responses I received, whether in writing or in person, were overwhelmingly in support of what I said and I was surprised to hear from so many people whose work is focused on helping those in need.

Even so, something still didn’t feel quite right and I’ve been trying to figure out why. It may have something to do with the unusual experience I had that led to the writing of that piece.

I subscribe to several email lists that pertain to home education and sometimes general parenting issues are discussed, too. One day, a young mother I’ve never met shared a struggle she was having and asked for support and guidance.

I could relate so well and I knew I could help. It really didn’t take much time to respond and I didn’t think much more about it until the next day when I received a private reply from her.

She told me that I really gave her spiritual food and said it might sound odd, but she had made a personal decision to tithe to people who give her spiritual food. I thought that was very interesting and decided I would accept her offering and pay it forward myself in some manner. The amount was really not that much in the grand scheme of things, but it was far more than I expected.

I’m not sure now why I decided to earmark this little windfall for the homeless. The reason the two of us connected had nothing to do with the homeless — we connected because we both reject spanking as a valid method of raising children.

Still, for whatever reason, I chose to pay this forward to help the homeless in some way. But when I thought about how to go about doing that, it reintroduced old feelings of frustration surrounding the management of Haven House.

I could have just kept my mouth shut and quietly worked around the organization. That’s what I did in the end anyway because after getting a recommendation from someone I trust, I purchased specific items for another group who assists the homeless.

So I could have just completely ignored Haven House and its issues. Instead, I wrote the column. And even though I wouldn’t change a word, I still wonder if I might feel better about the whole tithing experience if I had just quietly paid it forward instead.

Ahh, but maybe the whole purpose of the tithe coming when it did was to get me to say out loud what I, and apparently many others, have been thinking for such a long time.

I think it bothered me for a while because this was a situation where I was not forced to do anything at all. Donating to Haven House or not was completely under my control. No one was pointing a gun at me and telling me what to do like government organizations do.

So why did I feel the need to tell everyone why I would not give to this specific organization? Maybe it’s because even in our voluntary interactions, looking for effective and ethical management of organizations is still an important thing to do.

— Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson only cares about keeping her mouth shut when riding her bike through a gnat cloud.

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