NO GOOD DEED...
 

“No good deed goes unpunished.”

 

Perhaps the essence of irony, I’m occupationally-fascinated by this tongue-in-check phrase.

 

Often attributed to Oscar Wilde—or occasionally, the Bible—this frequently miscredited quote seems to capture the heart of our subliminal good-deed-fear: “What is my gesture of sacrifice going to cost me?”  Usually stated as a sarcastic, existential one-liner, there is a certain level of nervous laughter—drawn from memory—that attends its utterance. You know what I am talking about.

You rescue a homeless cat and the next morning discover your favorite armchair… torn to smithereens. You recommend an employer to a friend and she ends up hating the job… and avoiding you for decades. You generously decide to cut the neighbors lawn while they are on vacation and unintentionally obliterate their favorite perennials… landing in the neighborhood dog-house.

No good deed goes unpunished.

Everyone has their own, richly ironic, case-in-point. Perhaps no more so than the collective group of people who intentionally pursue good-deeds.

 

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Ask any Nonprofit organization worth their weight in kind-heartedness—locals Bounty and Soul, Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry, Full Moon Farm, William’s Place and Goodwill come to mind—and they will tell you, in no uncertain terms, “No good deed goes unpunished.” Of course, they won’t use this exact language, but in their heart-of-hearts... they know, “If you want to improve the world, there’s a price to pay.”

As the new nonprofit in town, Hammer & Heart (H&H) has faced its fair share of good-deed retaliations.  

Some have come in the form of government forms, “Yes, you must fill-out this 46-page form to become a federally recognized 501c3.” Others have taken the shape of lengthy dialogues on exceedingly fascinating topics—like by-laws and insurance rates.  Some have even been visited upon it late at night—as the Executive Director, I had no idea nonprofits caused insomnia!

Of course, this sort of discourse may be a bit unnerving. By now, you may be asking yourself, “Why are you telling me about Hammer & Heart and why should I risk my neck for it?”

Let’s talk about that.

In the throes of a booming real estate market, Hammer and Heart pursues a forgotten population: those who can’t afford to maintain their homes. 

 

Often living amongst contemporary neighborhoods, these folks have been unable to keep their residence in a safe or livable condition. Likely to be lower income families, the elderly or disabled—and more likely, living under the radar—they deal with urgent repair needs they are unable to address: leaky roofs, hazardous wiring, failing HVAC systems, deteriorating entranceways and/or accessibility issues.

By addressing these predicaments, H&H is hoping to help Swannanoa Valley residents stay in their homes; keep them safe; improve their quality of life; protect their investment and give homeowners a big boost in confidence (nobody feels good about living in a dangerous home).

Why go out on a proverbial do-good-limb for Hammer & Heart?

Consider "Carl" (not his real name, but a real person).

Recently introduced to Carl by a former employer, H&H found him living in an older home with no heat, no insulation, outdated wiring, damaged siding, a decaying roof and in need of accessibility improvements.  

During a January snowstorm, Carl—as usual—huddled in one of the bedrooms, cranked up the space heaters and stayed covered-up. Setting his alarm to avoid tripping the breaker, he switched the over-heated extension cord to another outlet every few hours.

Hammer & Heart is working to keep Carl in his home. A few other factors may be pertinent here:

  • Approximately 15% of the Swannanoa Valley lives below the poverty level. There are many “Carls.”

  • 99% of the Carls aren’t slackers. Life—and age—have tossed them a few curveballs and they are doing the best they can. All our Carls are vetted and prioritized according to financial need, disability, age and circumstance.

  • Based on our initial projects, an intervention—requiring paid tradesmen and/or volunteers—involves numerous repairs. A typical project, like Carl’s, can easily cost upwards of $10,000 (as resources come in, they quickly depart).

  • Generous donors have paved the way to help folks like Carl. During our first year, over $25,000 in donations, $2,000 in contractor discounts and 56-hours in volunteer labor helped H&H address accessibility issues, leaky roofs and general rot. 

 

Hammer & Heart is one of many nonprofits dedicated to making a difference in our beautiful valley. A cost-benefit analysis—weighing existential one-liners ("No good deed goes unpunished") against neighbors like Carl—seems a bit silly. I mean, who wouldn’t want to help Carl?!  But the reality is: There is a real price to pay for improving the world. 

For H&H board members, it’s putting in long hours and striving to be prudent managers. For contractors willing to help, it’s rearranging priorities and sacrificing income. For volunteers, it’s manual labor, fundraising, stuffing envelopes, data entry and giving-up free time. For donors, it’s relinquishing hard-earned cash.

Based on the responses from those we’ve served—significant improvements in safety; a substantial reduction in discomfort, stress and fear; a renewed interest in aging-in-place, and a great appreciation for neighbors that care for them—I’m guessing, it’s been worth the price.

 

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Please give generously and regularly to local nonprofits. Your gifts, large or small, will have a huge impact on the life of Carl*… or one of his fine neighbors.

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Ben Fortson

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All gifts are tax-deductible

You may give online via PayPal or credit card; or mail your check to:

Hammer & Heart

PO Box 577

Black Mountain, NC 28711 

Get in touch with Hammer & Heart

Questions about donations or volunteering with H&H? Contact us at info@hammerandheartwnc.org