“I can see clearly now the rain is gone / I can see all obstacles in my way / Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind / It’s gonna be a bright, bright sun-shiny day ...” – Johnny Nash, “I Can See Clearly Now,” 1972

Imagine, if you will, a developing cloudiness to your vision, a slowly dropping veil of ever-increasing darkness, as if someone were turning off the lights of your world. You do your best to see, but things just keep getting dimmer and duller.

So, you finally go to your eye doctor, where you are told you have cataracts. But they can be removed with laser beams, with new lenses actually installed directly into your eyes, thereby restoring your vision.

And the price tag for that work? About $10,000 ... which you don’t have, as well as no insurance either, which you haven’t been able to afford. And, finally, you have the doctor’s advice that you’ve got about six months to fix those lenses before the damage is permanent.

What to do?

Well, in my case, I seriously, for the first time in my life, actually thought about robbing a bank – because the person whose eyes couldn’t see any longer was my wife, Barbie Harrington, and somehow, someway, I had to get them fixed.

Well, we could apply for “welfare.” We chose instead to investigate some voluntary grant applications offered by some of the local businesses and charities here in Wyoming. Our two daughters, SamiJo and Kaitie, with the help of other friends, mobilized their efforts to organize a silent auction, with donated items, to help raise the needed funds as well.

And, a few months later, with the help of friends, family and community, we raised those funds. Barbie had her first eye operated on back in December, and her second eye received the treatment a few days ago.

“I can see clearly now!” she bubbled the other day.

“The gift of sight I’ve been given,” she continued, “is much different than having your light bill paid or of receiving a free turkey dinner. ... I can actually see the shapes of my grandchildren’s’ eyes ... the angles of their cheekbones, their pointy little chins. ... The gift of sight I’ve been given is right up there with the gift of life itself.”

So how, in such a situation, do you ever thank the people who have helped you? How do you ever repay such a debt?

Well, when it comes to paying people back, Barbie’s an expert: “You don’t pay it back,” she told me the other day. “You pay it forward.” And immediately she started working on some of her other charity issues to do just that, while I was left to ponder the realities of true charity vs. government “help.”

True charity, not the dehumanizing “welfare” lines the state would shove you into. For the sake of intellectual consistency and integrity, let’s take a look at some of the differences:

- “Welfare,” funded as it is through taxes, is based on the idea that you have no right to your own money – but that you do have, apparently, some “right” to the wealth produced by others instead. (How’s that again?) Charity funds, on the other hand, are raised voluntarily, with the full consent of all donors; there is no state force employed anywhere in such operations.

- “Welfare,” based as it is on the destruction of private property rights, can only create progressively worsening scenarios of “help,” coupled with totalitarian control. Voluntary charity, on the other hand, actually gives people the help they need to survive.

- And, of course, there’s the personal and social bonds that are created by that help that never come into existence through government “aid,” since your “donors” are, in reality, the faceless victims of government property theft, not people who are actually interested in helping you at all.

Yet, we are told, “welfare” is the wave of the future ... despite the fact that such practices can be proven to be highly destructive to all involved, as well as being completely inconsistent with the fundamental ideas of the United States of America.

So, when it comes to “welfare,” we’ll starve first, thank you anyway. Luckily enough, with the help of a lot of friends, family and others far too numerous to name here, that wasn’t necessary in this case. THANK YOU for all of it! You saved Barbie’s eyes, and how on Earth do I ever thank you for that?

“You don’t,” Barbie said, placing her fingers over my lips. “You pay it forward.”

Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email: bradhgt1776@gmail.com.

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