I was driving across Texas last Tuesday on my way to Houston on business.  Along the way, I was able to take some back roads which included driving through fields of corn and it got me thinking about helping people.

Have you ever heard the term “cutting corners?”   You’ve no doubt heard it in regards to builders, ie: “This building exceeds all local codes and I can guarantee that we did not cut any corners.”  Or, perhaps from a politician when he says, “I will not cut any corners in my new administration.”  or the opposite, “He’s cut too many corners while repairing his car and it’s about to fall apart.”  Why is cutting corners bad, and why is not cutting corners good?  Isn’t that an interesting question to be thinking about as you drive 150 miles across Texas?

In truth, the term comes from a tradition in American agriculture in response to neighbors needing assistance.   Before the government handed out welfare checks or EBT cards with “free money” for the purchase of food, farmers gave back to their neighbors. 

“Not cutting corners” refers to a farmer not cutting the corner of a field during harvest.  Neighbors were free to come into the field with their baskets and take an amount of food sufficient for their needs.  Neighbors would work and take an apportioned amount, thus allowing others to also share in the bounty.  The people who needed the food were expected to provide the labor, time, and effort to collect their harvest, but they were not charged for this and they could take all that they needed.  The farmer got the satisfaction that he helped his neighbors.   The good farmer was a guy who didn’t cut corners.

Some uninformed or misinformed people don’t understand that those who oppose government handouts are not against helping those needing assistance.  In fact, I would say that most people are genuinely concerned, and this extends to a person’s spiritual needs, in addition to the nutritional requirements of their flesh.   Americans tend to believe that “assistance” is a limited form of help intended to allow a person to help themselves.   There is something to be said for dignity and self-respect.   Helping with a hand-out is not the same as helping with a hand-up.

And remember – don’t cut any corners and you’ll be a good person too.