Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What Have YOU Done For YOUR Community?

Yesterday's Tulsa Housing Authority meeting concerning the location of a homeless shelter in the Admiral and Yale area generated a lot of interesting conversation . As I think about it, it would have been fascinating to see a one on one debate between one of the participants on each side of the argument.

IMAGINE for a moment that Wanda Watson and Ruth Kaiser Nelson agreed to a one on one presidential campaign style debate. Wanda Watson is a nationally known blues singer with a voice like Janis Joplin and a deep passion for protecting her neighborhood. Ruth Kaiser Nelson is from one of Tulsa's wealthiest families and is known for her philanthropy.

IMAGINE that the moderator asked the representatives the following question: "What have you done for your community?"

IMAGINE that Wanda Watson answered: "I bought a home in a neighborhood I could afford. I took a chance on a marginal neighborhood. I paid my taxes, mowed my lawn, painted my house, worked with my neighbors and tried to be a stable and positive influence in a neighborhood that needs it badly."

IMAGINE that Ruth Kaiser Nelson answered: "I donated a million dollars to keep a homeless shelter away from my neighborhood and put it in HERS."

Now who would be the real philanthropist in that exchange? Ruth Kaiser Nelson's lifestyle will not change no matter how much money she donates to make the Admiral and Yale shelter a reality. She is giving discretionary funds in a way that just happens to serve the business and property interests of a lot of people like her. And, if things get too unpleasant in Tulsa for her, she can always jet away to Colorado or Newport or Palm Springs.

Wanda Watson on the other hand has donated not just a huge percentage of her non-discretionary net worth but also her presence, her influence and her sweat, literally her life. There is no comparison between the two. Wanda Watson's lifestyle will change radically because of what is happening at Admiral and Yale. If things turn bad in her Tulsa, she will just have to live with whatever situation the Ruth Kaiser Nelson's have created for her.

It is not philanthropy when you donate money you will not miss to take everything a less advantaged person has.


1 Woe to those who make unjust laws,
to those who issue oppressive decrees,

2 to deprive the poor of their rights
and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey
and robbing the fatherless.

3 What will you do on the day of reckoning,
when disaster comes from afar?
To whom will you run for help?
Where will you leave your riches?

Isaiah 10:1-3


Blogger gdr said...

"It is not philanthropy when you donate money you will not miss to take everything a less advantaged person has."

That's a classic! Takes a coupl'a seconds for slow folks like me to digest, but when the full meaning kicks in, it's a winner!

I don't have a dog in this fight, but I do love dogs. Under-ones tend to be my favorite, and it looks to me like the Big Bucks in Tulsa are lined up against the underdogs of the less affluent.

We moved here from NM, and I always heard that Tulsa was a town that "took care of bid'ness," meaning the rich took care to build Tulsa up right. It wasn't until we moved out east of T-Town and I began to read about the goin's-on that I learned the "takin' care of bid'ness" part was correct, but not in the way I'd always thought.

I was struck by an interview on one of the local TV stations some time back. An older gentleman the reporter spoke to was one who spent much of his elder days watching the Drillers play at Driller Stadium. He made the two points that struck me: 1.) Moving the Drillers out of a stadium that seats nearly 11,000 folks; is rated the best in the Texas League; and is long paid for, didn't seem to make much sense. 2.) The elderly gentleman said he wouldn't be able to afford to go to games any more when the Drillers moved.

I know the Drillers were/are being courted by Jenks. And I know time changes most things. But I would have expected more from the folks who have extra money in their pockets and call themselves "philanthropists." I'd think they would look out for the interests of the residents of ALL parts of the city. (Not to mention the ."takin' care of bid'ness" that's going on with the proposed NEW Drillers Stadium......downtown!)

So that brings me back to the homeless shelter. And the comparison between Watson and Ruth Kaiser Nelson. I'm afraid it's another example of how disillusioned this country boy was about the true nature of Tulsa's Big Boys. (and Girls) They're "takin' care of bid'ness" all right, but NOT by DOIN' The Right.

Sad that another of my impressions of a Western-Town philosophy has bitten the dust............


9:17 PM  
Blogger Douglas said...

gdr if you happen back to this and read the additional comments, I hope you will realize that you do have a "dog in this fight" if you live anywhere in Tulsa. The homeless housing facility at 10 S. Yale served to shake up a large number of slumbering apathetic Tulsans who intend to wake up many more. Now is the time for us to start taking Tulsa "bid'ness" back from the out-for-themselves power hungry wealthy and put it back in the hands of the citizens.

When my husband was asking my mother about how to address wealthy who are giving so much to our city, and she said that true charity is the act of a servant and not the act of one who desires something in return.

Let's take this great city back.
Check out the website:

4:53 PM  
Blogger gdr said...


When I said I didn't have a dog in this fight, I was referring to the fact that we live between Porter and Coweta, near Red Bird. Now, if you know the history of Red Bird, you know "stuff!"

But whether we live in Tulsa or not doesn't matter, actually. T-Town is the "town of record" to those who know little about NE Oklahoma, so when you speak to folks like that, you simply say you're from "near Tulsa." Before we moved here, that was how we identified where folks lived.

A man by the name of Joseph Addison once said charity was "a virtue of the heart, and not of the hands." To me, that is the same thing as what your mother is saying. You don't give so you can get. You give out of what the Scriptures call "love," not out of intent of investment.

But to ME, the key is found in the Scriptures. Matt. 7:12: "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." NIMBY isn't a concept that is acceptable according to the Golden Rule.

Having said that, my original point was, Tulsa, Oklahoma had always had a respectable reputation as a solid, growing town with a good number of wealthy benefactors who knew the true meaning of charity. How disappointing to find that some of that "charity" is dependent upon "meaningful return,"; and that "love," which replaces "charity" in versions of the Scriptures other than King James, is conditional upon transferring the undesirable to the land of thy neighbor!

"Alas, alas that great city Babylon, that mighty city!"


12:08 AM  

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