Sage advice from an elderly gentleman perched atop a lonely mountain.
Hello friends! Today our question comes from Rex Carson of Brattleboro, Vermont.
“Dear Banaba,” Rex writes. “Why aren’t people more charitable?”
To my new friend Rex, I ask, “Rex, what do you need now?”
But again, that is me being playful. As I see it, the more serious response to the question has three parts. People may be seen as being less than charitable because:
- Charity is inconvenient
- Charity requires that we give something of ourselves
- We have a tendency to judge one’s need to see if they are worthy of our effort
Many people are charitable at heart, but people are busy, and even with the best of intentions, moving the notion of being charitable into action takes purposeful intent. Charitable groups or people in need of charity can be quite good about asking for help and letting you know that they exist as an entity, and the need for your help is real, but if you are not in the place, either in your mind or in your personal situation, where it is easy to give – also called a “no brainer” – one is not likely to do so.
Also, most people believe they work hard to support the lives they have. If they are inspired to help others, they do so because they can, and they want to feel good about themselves for doing it. So, while the act of charity helps those in need, it also gives those who help an emotional boost. People need something in return for their work, even if it is just a good feeling, otherwise they would not do it.
There are many forms of charity, financial, physical, emotional and no matter the form, the act of charity requires a willingness and a capability on the part of the giver to provide support to others. Only the giver can define those thresholds. They will give what is comfortable for them.
It is easy to donate clothes that you do not wear, tools that you do not use, or similar items because you are already detached from them and the cost to you is low.
The donation of time in the service of others is more difficult because we are already time strapped. How much time can one spare? Is it enough time to do any good? Will it end up being more time than we expected to the point where it infringes on other things? Plus, the donation of time means a more integrated involvement, personally and emotionally, with the issue you are working on or the affected people, animals or whatever. So, time is a more personal investment.
Then there is money. Sometimes it is easiest to give money because the ultimate cost to you is lower than other options. You can give without being directly involved. You are not really connected to the issue beyond your financial support. You won’t get your hands dirty because your donation combined with others allows other people to do the work. On the other hand, money may be very difficult for you to give because of your personal situation even though sometimes money is what is needed most.
Since the act of charity is seen as a basic human trait, it is very difficult when people with a charitable heart cannot give, cannot do for the people and groups they wish to help. It is a struggle. It can also be disheartening when we give and believe that we are doing good, only to find we have been duped and our time, energy and resources have gone to places less worthy than our intentions. It happens often enough and on a grand enough scale that some will take great caution before considering charity.
Because we have been burned, or we know someone who has been burned in the past, we like to make sure that if we go out of our way to be charitable, the efforts are earned and deserved.
We all tend to compare others to ourselves especially when it comes to charity. We are human. We judge. We shouldn’t and I believe we often try not to, but it is a hard-wired into our brains and difficult to escape. Does that person really need that money? If I’m working, why aren’t they working? I will give only so much because they should be able to do the rest on their own. They are being lazy. They already have help from other people, how much more do they need? And on and on and on.
The problem with being so judgmental is that it can skew one’s perspective. While I encourage care and consideration, I caution against becoming so critical that it paralyzes one’s sense of humanity to the point where cynicism trumps charity, or at least the honest consideration of charity. We should be better than that. Sometimes, we are not.
There is no shortage of charitable requests that come our way. They come in our mail, they come to us electronically in email and chats and notes, we are approached as we come and go from our local Super Marts, or on street corners. Whether from strangers or from friends and family, it seems someone always wants or needs something. It can be exhausting.
When the planets align and we have determined that the time for giving is now, that we have the resources to spare and that our resources will go where needed to serve the intended purpose, we are more likely to be charitable.
So when Rex asks, why aren’t people more charitable, one might say that if we take all things into consideration, people are as charitable as we allow them to be.
Peace to you – Banaba
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