attack_laurel (attack_laurel) wrote,

Give because you're a selfish, selfish **!@!#!!

I managed to turn off my alarm in my sleep sometime during the night; fortunately, I only overslept by about 20 minutes, so I wasn't late for work. It does seem, however, that my subconscious is now in league with my arms, and is trying to get me to stay home and not work them until they hurt.

Fat chance. Too much to do. I am going gently on the embroidery, though - no sense in screwing myself up to the point I can't do anything, especially since I plan on going dancing at Orpheus again on Friday (I will definitely be there - it remains to be seen who else will be, since it was a bit of a last minute thing).

But - my last thoughts in my trilogy on charity (less exciting than Star Wars, more amusing than Species III) were nicely introduced in my comments section yesterday when lorebubeck wrote about the Friends episode where Joey proved to Phoebe that all charity has a healthy dose of self-interest in it, even if it's just that it makes you feel good.

I am surprised by people who say one shouldn't give charity for selfish reasons, as if the money that you don't want to give is somehow worth more. They seem to feel that it is more moral to give grudgingly, and make yourself suffer so that others may have food. And that if you're just giving charity because of some personal benefit, it doesn't count.

Yeah, that sounds like a winning recipe for getting people to give.

Charity works best when there is a definite benefit to the giver, whether it is public approbation (Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Richard Branson,, nice stuff (buying something with a charity tie-in, like Product Red, Susan G. Komen Foundation pink be-ribboned stuff, or St Jude's Hospital logo'd goods), or a tax break (we got a receipt for the old house we just donated, you betcha). When you say "help people and get what you want!", it works much better than saying "give up all the things you like because people are starving in Africa!!!".

And there's nothing wrong with this. Nothing. In fact, it is a fantastic way of increasing charitable donations. On the radio, there's an ad for SunTrust bank, who runs a program whereby if you open a certain type of account with them, they'll make a charitable donation in your name, and if you use their credit card, you can earn more points for your favourite charity. The bank gets business, you get (presumably) a decent bank, and the charity of your choice gets goodies. How is this not a win-win situation?

I was so happy when Product Red came out, because it's for a cause I feel strongly about, but there are many consumer products that benefit some foundation or another - and it's not much more effort to buy them. Yes, each purchase does not donate a substantial amount (the companies have their own interests to protect), but the donations add up - and something is always better than nothing. The more people get into the idea that donation products are a good thing, the more they will be purchased. Again, everyone benefits.

Yes, I know the companies benefit more than anyone; there are always arguments against consumerism and big business. But consider this before you post a long explanation as to why Big Business is Evil in my comments section: If a random person was going to buy that random consumer product anyway, what skin is it off your nose? If you want to find it cheaper elsewhere and give your money directly to charity that's great, but it's not what most people do. This way, people who would not normally think of donating also donate, so charities get your money and theirs. Even selfish people who turn their noses up at Unicef boxes and prefer to keep their change in a jar for the Coinstar machine rather than donate it (I am guilty of this - oh, Coinstar, how you have affected my habits!) can participate without pain or even conscious thought.

Yes, it would be nice if everyone was more socially aware, but until scientists discover a way to activate that gene in everyone (uh, maybe that wouldn't be a good thing...), getting selfish people to donate in as painless a way as possible is brilliant.

I suppose what I'm trying to say here is that charity shouldn't hurt; anyone who gets all moral and in-your-face about making you suffer for the greater good has some kind of killjoy axe to grind. They are more interested in causing you discomfort for your OMG! selfish enjoyment of the money you earned! than they are about helping people in need. I remain firmly convinced that Communism, with its determined redistribution of wealth (with the end result that no-one gets enough to do anything fun, like buy an X-Box) was a vast exercise in sour grapes on Marx's part.

(Just kidding! Communism is a valid and interesting governmental system that didn't work. At all.)

I think the only way we are going to be able to work towards the greater good of non-gender-specific-people-kind is to persuade the average consumer that they will personally benefit from being thoughtful. Charity and welfare have gotten a seriously bad rap because of a small minority of assholes who behave like the world owes them money for simply existing, but the majority of people who have benefitted from public and private charity programs are just like you and me - and worth helping. In the same way that increasing environmental awareness and willingness to go green needs to be done gently or people will run in terror, getting people to sacrifice part of their income for people they don't even know needs to be approached with tact. Consumer tie-ins are a great way to start - sure, you're paying a little more for that apron with the pink ribbon on it, but maybe it's worth it to you.

(Or not. Your choice...)

From there, it becomes more natural to think about giving in other ways - the tags you can sometimes pick up at the grocery store register that put $1 or $5 on your grocery bill for food banks, bagging your clothes for the thrift store instead of just throwing them away, giving your old prescription glasses and crappy old cell phones to foundations that re-distribute them, and signing up for a bank account that benefits a charity. Then, maybe, a yearly donation to a worthy cause. Or participation in a bake sale to raise money for a local volunteer group. Or even a little extra cash tucked in a holiday card for a family in need.  Landfills shrink, people get help, and we all get the warm fuzzies.

I think when we look outward to do good, we increase the good we do for ourselves. All my life, I've worked on becoming a better person - more patient, more tactful, less impulsive, kinder, smarter, whatever (I'll leave the decision as to whether I've been successful or not up to you guys). It seems to me that charitable thinking is a logical part of that; thinking of others becomes more natural when you practice it regularly. 

We are born selfish - we have to be taught the benefits of sharing, of waiting our turn, of being polite and caring about the feelings of others.  However, when toddlers learn of those benefits, they usually embrace the idea, often out of self-interest ("if I share my cars with Bobby, he'll share that wicked cool remote-control helicopter with me").

I give money to homeless people on the street - it's not something I expect other people to do - and I've rarely been scammed, mostly because I don't care if they use it on drugs or not - I accept that some people will choose that route, and who am I to judge (with my six pill-a-day coedine habit)? If it gives someone without shelter a bit of relief for a few hours, I'm cool. I try to throw a bit of change in the Salvation Army kettles. I buy toys for Toys for Tots. I donate when I see a charity box. I may even write a cheque for some charity or other this year.

Why? Not because I'm a good, selfless person. For me, it is entirely selfish - I like being told "God bless you!", and I like making someone smile and feel human/imagine a kid's face when they open the toy I bought/get a water filtration unit for their village so their children don't die of dysentery.  

I like to feel good, and a charity high is as good as any other high. Sometimes, it's even better.    :) 

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