After several days of not enough hours in the day, I finally had the chance to catch up on some blog reading. Over at billy's blog, the subject was charity.
He and I have similar concerns. We both have given larger gifts in previous years and have cut back in our gift giving. Unfortunately, charities need our assistance more than ever.
The US government is balancing it's budget in part by cutting back on grants to charitable organizations. Every single one of those organizations is calling my home and filling my mailbox with their pleas for help.
One year, I had the brilliant idea that I would give a large number of groups small amounts, dispersing what I had to share not quite to the nth degree. WOW, was that a BAD idea! Now they are selling their mailing lists and I am drowning in the volume of requests for help.
We have decided not to respond to ANY request for donations over the phone. Fund raisers are getting testier than they've been in the past, and some are downright rude. I try to interrupt them early in their spiel so I don't waste their time, and if they don't accept no, but keep right on, I hang up. It makes me feel rotten.
I have focused on four charities that I wish to support: Habitat for Humanity, the Salvation Army, a local food pantry and the Neediest Kid's Fund, sponsored by WGN radio. We occasionally support the Cancer Fund, too, but those donations are not made at Christmas. I can think of dozens of other groups I'd like to support, including anything having to do with education, or helping destitute families.
I'm trying to budget here and there, so that I can make my contributions for the year, and it seems that each year things have gotten tighter and tighter. We clean out closets and make donations to the groups that accept things for resale, or to help destitute families. I give change to the seasonal collections, I write small checks here and there, and try to give my time where I can. I can't help feeling it's not enough.
There was a time when families took care of their own. Those who didn't have families fell back on the charity of the church. Occasionally a forward thinking community had a fund to help in emergencies. I can't tell if there is less of that support now than when I was a kid, or if maybe it's just that I am living in a more affluent area, where there is less need. I'm sure the federal government is doing less than it did even forty years ago.
When do you make the choice to save for your own need and cut back on charitable giving? We all believe that great things come from small starts. We've read about kids collecting pennies for a cause, or selling lemonade to make money to donate. We all believe that gifts like that snowball and grow, much in the way of the parable of the fishes and the loaves. I worry about being stingy with my donations. Those of us with good fortune need to share, after all.
Short of joining an order and taking on a vow of poverty, what is enough?
Dear Husband believes that charity begins at home. He feels that we should support our family, and I believe that we need to reach out further. We've had to compromise to satisfy each other's philosophy. As things get tighter, we are doing less for others. This is one of those times when I'd like to be wealthy. I wonder if someone like Bill Gates has the same kind of discussions we have? "Do you think we should give another million to the food pantry?" "No, we've already hit the limit for charitable donations for the year."