Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Goodbye Father Dollar Bill

Maurice Chase, AKA Father Dollar Bill, was an LA legend. A priest by training and a fundraiser by trade, Father Dollar Bill went to skid row every week to give money to the poor - $1 at a time. He didn't care how the money was spent, and he didn't withhold from anyone. When he had given away all his dollar bills (between $2,000-$2,500 on a normal Sunday, up to $15,000 on Christmas and Thanksgiving) he would return home. Father Dollar Bill died on Sunday, and it seems as if no one will step in to take him place. Would you?

Some have criticized Father Dollar Bill, that his actions fell short of doing real good or making lasting change. Can a dollar buy much? No, not much. But it can buy a bottle of clean water or some cheap food. And for those who have nothing, that's quite a lot. He had no overhead. He solicited directly from the rich and redistributed directly to the poor, counting Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra among his donors. Besides, Father Dollar Bill didn't care about the money, he was giving the gift of human love. From his obituary in the LA Times:

He began every trip to skid row with a prayer about serving the poor: "When you have done it to the least of men, you have done it to me." Then he prepared the stacks of new dollar bills he had withdrawn from the bank earlier. "Everything is so dirty on skid row," he told the Los Angeles Daily News in 2004. "I want to give them something fresh and new."

For those who criticize his methods I would ask "have you done more?" Though there may be flaws in his plan, Father Dollar Bill's actions were direct, easy to replicate, and honest. I am too selfish to do what Father Dollar Bill did, even though I am capable. I don't want to spend the time fundraising, nor do I want to stand on skid row with thousands of dollars in my pocket. I would fear for my safety, and I would feel uncomfortable surrounded by some many who need so much.

But I have hope that someone less selfish than me, perhaps someone who has their basic needs met through a large inheritance, will pick up where Father Dollar Bill left off to continue spreading hope and sharing wealth.

-Selfish Blogger

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