Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Idea #9: Give to People, Not Causes
I suppose I'd prefer to be on the same team as the Winners! the Awesome Ones! the Successful Overcomers! Nope, just me and the losers. Again.
I considered giving up the blog. I have conceded that it is unlikely that the ramblings and tiny changes of one suburban housewife are going to amount to much. I have realized that my own commitment to my own change is not all that it ought to be. I have faced the sad truth that my motivations are not all lovely and light and that I am most likely to adopt adaptations that save me money and/or improve my own sense of awesomeness. I can't help but think Real Change had a better start than this.
And yet I persevere. Though the Occupiers flounder, though my will is flawed, though my energy flags... still I want to want more of myself and my world, so I will do one more week. One More Idea. And maybe next week, another.
This week's idea is inspired in part by the advent of Advent which of course is the advent of The Giving Season. The time of year when we spend what we do not have to give what other do not need to celebrate what we do not remember.
That may be a bit cynical.
And maybe sometimes a bit true. We may be a tiny bit thoughtless when we give and maybe being a tiny bit more thoughtful will be another tiny step to a better world.
Specifically this: In earlier comments, Darren posited that giving to some of his preferred causes was a more effective vehicle for change than tenting in the rain. I wondered in turn if perhaps working to eliminate the need for those worthy causes might not be a better investment of my own time.
If I think this is true, then I must wonder about whether or not how I give might be promoting or hindering change. In discussing with some friends, this emerged: if my "cause" is hunger and I can give to $25, do I do more to end hunger by giving (for example) to UGM to feed several a Thanksgiving dinner or by giving to one person in line there to buy their own food?
I could probably argue either. But I know the part where when I give to a cause, a percentage goes to the people who serve (rightly, as well it ought) but when I give to a person, all of it goes to their need. Am I willing to forego the tax receipt and the anonymous distance of giving to a cause in order to make what I think may be a more meaningful, lasting difference by giving to a person? And isn't that kind of the crux: that I would have to know who needed what I have to give? And that by getting to know some people, I might better know what would truly make a difference? Instead of what I think should make a difference?
So this is not being very clear. I think what I want to think about is if I am serious about redistributing wealth, and particularly my own, then do I want to send it to institutions or to people? I'm not altogether sure. But there is something appealing about arranging cleaning services for a mother enduring chemotherapy (a project friends took on last year) instead of giving money to The Big Cancer Agency; to collecting groceries for a local family experiencing loss instead of dropping a few old cans of expired beans in the food bank bin; to giving cash to that guy with the sign instead of charging a donation to The People Who Help, even if he uses it in some way I don't approve of - God knows I hardly approve of all the ways I spend the money I keep to myself.
I don't know exactly how this works, but there is something to knowing people in need that inspires a generosity that can change things. Giving to an institution means that I never have to know about real need, never have to face the other side of my affluence, the cost of my comfort. Giving to people means that I have to listen a little more closely, think a lot more thoughtfully, live a little more generously.
I wonder if we'll try this one.
IDEA #9 Response:
Do you see any benefit to giving to people instead of to causes? Have you given in a way that changed you? Do you have any ideas about how to give in a way that makes a tiny change?