THE EDITOR, Sir:
When I was still quite young, I remember my mother using the expression, ‘Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth’, to a teacher on her staff. I liked the expression and started to use it, although I didn’t know what it meant.
It was years later that my father explained that because horses grind their food, their gums recede as they age, giving the impression that the teeth are getting longer. So horse traders could tell the age of a horse by the length of its teeth – hence ‘long in the tooth’ – an expression we use – when people are not within earshot – to mean that they are getting old.
Many years ago, I was a volunteer on a certain project. Food For The Poor (FFP) was involved, and in talking to one of its staffers, I was shocked to learn of the number of 40-foot trailers that came into the island daily with a variety of items to be given away to the needy. It seemed it was more than the government was doing.
FFP is headquartered in Florida and is the largest charity of its kind in the US. It was conceived by one member of the most giving family this country has produced.
I can’t remember the last meeting I have been part of, and there was a need that FFP was not mentioned before our own government. Perhaps they are always saying ‘yes’, followed by ‘how soon’.
It was, therefore, with extreme annoyance that I heard an obviously ‘toothless’ politician dismissing and denouncing this worthy organisation, claiming that they were giving termite-laden, poorly constructed houses to the poor. Sensing the annoyance of many, he tried to retract. But I heard it from the horse’s mouth – on TV.
Had he spoken to someone a little longer in the tooth – in his own family – he would have been advised to have a private meeting with the charity and mention this matter. FFP deserves no less. Charities are able to help because of donations. And nothing turns off donors like these sordid stories. This is rude, destructive, untruthful and disrespectful.
One of his colleagues was quick to agree with him, claiming that politicians should ‘get the money’, as they could build the houses for ‘half the price that FFP is building them’. Really, sir? Could this be toothlessness or brainlessness?
I suspect that there may be a good reason why this is not being done. In fact, we had been doing it for decades – the last project was proudly dubbed Operation PRIDE, you remember? The project where termites ate all the houses?