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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, et.al.), 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.    :) 


( 14 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
Dec. 12th, 2007 02:57 pm (UTC)
"We are born selfish "

Absofrigginlutely we are! It is the survival mechanism! What remains to be seen is if we have evolved sufficiently to now allow our higher order functions to over come the very basic survival mechanism stamped into us at a very fundamental, genetic level. I see hints of it happening but I remain cautiously optimistic (and armed, cuz y'all revert to brain eatin zombies sometimes....)
Dec. 12th, 2007 03:05 pm (UTC)
I love the dose of thoughtfulness in the morning! I'm all for making charity easy - after all, I have what I need, I have a whole lot of what I want, and by doing some little thing I can help someone else get what they need, and may be even want (although I consider toys for kids a need). They feel good, I feel good,m and it's warm fuzzies all around.
Dec. 12th, 2007 03:28 pm (UTC)
I forgot about giving away clothing...I do that all the time because well...I need a bigger closet or three darn it! That and I get all "Oh my goodness! I've had that for how long? That is so 20th c! And not in a good way." when I look through my wardrobe...
As for being selfish, I think that could be the motiviation in a lot of cases. However, there is the "guilt" trip motivation that my mother so well instilled in me. But then again, even that is self interest because you are giving to not feel guilty anymore...not that it works...
Dec. 12th, 2007 03:33 pm (UTC)
I agree. I don't believe in altruism. Like you said, even if it's just to feel good, there's a selfish element to the giving. That doesn't stop me from giving either. I have a Working Assets credit card because 10 cents goes to charity for each purchase. I have another credit card that benefits the Salmon Nation in the Pacific Northwest.

Another good example of what you were talking about with the nice stuff is the special OLPC is running until the end of the year. They are trying to get people to fund laptops for children in developing countries. So, now they are offering a deal where you get a laptop and one goes to a child. I think that's a great idea. I'll probably end up participating and using the one I get to take to SCA events since it is designed to withstand harsher conditions than the normal laptops.
Dec. 12th, 2007 03:48 pm (UTC)
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...)

At the risk of being mildly plot-spoilery, check out this story to find out. :)
Dec. 12th, 2007 03:50 pm (UTC)
Heh. :)
Dec. 12th, 2007 04:47 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry, I was distracted by the horrible notion that there actually was a Species III.
Dec. 12th, 2007 05:02 pm (UTC)
I believe there is actually a Species 4. Awful, isn't it?
Dec. 12th, 2007 05:07 pm (UTC)
Ok, poverty may not be humanity's greatest problem here!
Dec. 12th, 2007 05:41 pm (UTC)
My son loves donating to the salvation army, because they'll let him ring that annoying bell if he puts change in the kettle. lol, simple motivation, but if it makes him smile, and helps other people, then why not?
Dec. 12th, 2007 05:48 pm (UTC)
Absolutely! :)
Dec. 12th, 2007 09:45 pm (UTC)
Charity rocks. It makes you feel good about yourself even if it's just a dollar, even if you're cleaning out the couch for spare change to buy groceries with (been there!).

Getting folks active in it at a young age is one of the best ways to make charity... well, an instinctive thing, I wholeheartedly agree. I was in Scouting from 8 to 22, and Scouting places HUGE emphasis on charity (doing good turns and so on) without making it so much sacrifice as just part of everyday living. I swear I learned everything good in my life from Scouting, and my extended family is still strongly rooted in it (my niece and nephew started Sparks and Beavers this year respectively), and it shows.

Yard sales? Naw, it all goes to Crippled Civilians, the Diabetes Fund and various hospitals and other places. Books I no longer want go more often to the hospital library than the used book store, because I love the hospital library/bookstore so, so much.

It's funny -- I've done Habitat for Humanity work for several years (which, by the way, is not only one of the best charities out there but also one of the best ways I've found to meet new and nice people, including -- gasp -- dateable ones), which is kind of the epitome of hard work for a charity (time is harder to give than money for most folks), and yet my favourite charities are LAZY ones. My bank offered the option of donating a set-dollar amount to WWF or various other charities automatically -- click two buttons and boom, $5 comes out every month towards them. My paycheck at work actually offered the same thing, an automatic deduction of whatever amount you wanted towards various charities, and they take stuff as small as a few dollars if that's what you want.

I mean, if you don't even need to think about it, it doesn't get any easier than that. :D Especially if it's that easy to change or even cancel if you ever wanted to.

I did a year's work at Oxfam and had a blast there, but they definitely need to work on making it easier for people to donate. Nobody wants to fill out a huge form, especially not on the street or when people are canvassing homes. Paypal was the most brilliant thing they could have added, and it cut down the forms from a huge thing to just your email address.

I think the nicest thing I've ever seen was when I ran a christmas charity for the local no-kill animal shelter in the pet store I was managing -- it took a lot of organizing, but the end result was spectacular. We took pictures of all the animals there, got their names and ages, and printed out christmas cards with the animal's picture inside (we used a ton of photo paper, but I had a carton of the stuff I was otherwise never going to use), along with their name and something about them. We set up the christmas tree, and hung the cards on the tree. Customers would come in, pick a card from the tree, buy a toy or food or dish or anything for that animal, which we'd label and put into one of our huge boxes by the tree.

So people came in, picked up a little something, and out of it got a christmas card from a specific animal saying thanks. The response was OVERWHELMING -- we were OUT of cards by the end of the first week and had to make more! We wound up making half a dozen runs to the shelter (and added a couple of others to the whole thing) to drop off everything as the boxes were overflowing with gifts for animals, and there were DOZENS of adoptions of animals by people who had a christmas card of that particular pet (we made sure never to have any doubles for exactly that reason!).

It was totally amazing, and the generosity of people really blew me away. 40-lb bags of dog and cat food, massive bags of litter, cases of canned food -- loads of staples, but also TONS of scratching posts, toys toys toys, even collars and leashes were also donated.

Charity's a great thing. :) When it's easy to do, it's even better -- people are amazingly generous when they don't have to jump through hoops to be.
Dec. 13th, 2007 10:49 am (UTC)
Oh, that's so sweet! Like an Angel tree for animals. :)
Dec. 13th, 2007 12:04 am (UTC)
Well, I'm not against charity for whatever reason. But I think that it's important to remember that social responsibility goes beyond a few dollars here and there to help people in need. My view is that those of us on the 'have' side of the divide (and that would mean most people who own a computer for starters) also have a responsibility to help create a society where everyone gets the basics - food, housing, education, health care. There should also be room in that system for people to work hard and get extras.

So, while I donate to charities regularly, particularly the kind that do something sustainable, I also put my time and energy into political reform to try and make our society more equitable - it's about giving every person a chance to make the most of themselves.
( 14 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )

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