His rationale: “He feels that he worked really hard to get here and doesn’t feel that he got any help so he doesn’t feel he should give back to the community at large.”
He did work hard, putting himself through school and supporting family members at the same time. So did/does Revanche, who’s still supporting “two adult dependents who aren’t my children.”
What her friend doesn’t seem to get is this: He may not have asked for any help, but it would have been there had he needed it.
Suppose he’d become very ill and unable to support those family members (or himself) during that time. No one would have starved. They could have sought temporary assistance from government agencies but also from nonprofits and private charities funded in part by ordinary citizens.
You know, your neighbors. Fellow human beings. People who think that a few of their extra dollars would have more of an impact outside their bank accounts.
“I don’t need to be (very) wealthy to make a difference,” Revanche writes in a post called “Poverty, water, animals: On charity and the why.”
“I can’t save any one person but sometimes a helping hand is all you need, sometimes it gives you enough hope to scrape yourself off the floor and keep going.
“And that’s why I still give. Even though I’m all about personal responsibility and bootstrapping, I remember when a kind gesture was enough to help me do another job, fight another day.”
I was the recipient of a few kind gestures myself during hard times. And yes, they did make a difference.
Surviving and giving
That’s one reason why, back in 2007, I made “charitable donation” a line item in my budget, to the tune of $20 per month. This was the same time frame when I wrote “Surviving (and thriving) on $12,000 a year” for MSN Money, the guest post that got me started as a personal finance writer.
Some readers took me to task for donating to charity when I had relatively little myself. Strictly speaking, I guess I didn’t have much: My apartment was a dump furnished with castoffs and I was in debt due to a protracted divorce.
But I chose to look at things differently. I had friends and family, a full-ride university scholarship, a library card, a radio, a transit pass and a slow cooker. Most of all, I had the chance to make a life for myself. Felt pretty rich to me.
The desperately poor character Francie in “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” poured a cup of coffee down the drain every day because it made her feel rich. She figured she was better off than her equally poor neighbors because she had something to waste.
Me too: Although some people considered me poor, I was able to give away $20 each month and still keep the lights on.
Picking your spots
While I don’t kid myself that a double sawbuck each month meant a whole lot by itself, it did make a difference when combined with small (and large) contributions from others.
Right now I’m living on a very tight budget once more but giving is still part of the equation. I just have to pick my spots. A few recent examples:
- Dropping off items at a charity thrift shop
- Donating an art print to a charitable auction
- Continuing to pick up found money (including a $5 bill and a $25 bill thus far) that will go to the food bank
(For more ideas along these lines, see “25 ways to give (without breaking the bank),” a piece I did for Get Rich Slowly.)
Like Revanche, I know I can’t save the world. But I live in the world, which means not closing my eyes to need. I can’t pretend that other people’s suffering has nothing to do with me.
Revanche’s friend might feel justified in holding his money close and hardening his heart. That’s his right. It’s yours, too. No one has to donate either time or money. But you might be surprised by what you’ll get by giving.