Something I have been trying to improve in the last few years has been making a conscious effort to give in ways I've found difficult in the past. Two very concrete ways I think I can be more charitable is in 1) attitude and 2) money. One area in which I find it easy to be charitable, in comparison, is time, a resource I unfortunately have a tendency to squander as well.
A quote about charity from Maya Angelou's "Letter to my Daughter" that stuck with me went something like this:
The charitable say in effect, 'I seem to have more than I need and you seem to have less than you need. I would like to share my excess with you.' Fine, if my excess is tangible, money or goods, and fine if not, for I learned that to be charitable with gestures and words can bring enormous joy and repair injured feelings.
I found this statement powerful, as it pointed out to me a clear gap between where I am, now, and where I should be, or want to be. Part of it is just wanting to be a more decent human being but most of it is wanting to be a better Christian, and do a better job of living up to the character God expects from me as I walk in the world (though I fail miserably, most of the time). I try not to impose my beliefs on others (ironically enough, I felt a bit oppressed the other day when talking to a couple of rabidly atheist friends), and especially through this blog, but this particular topic is impossible to separate from my faith.
I will probably explore the subject of charity through kindness in another post, but for now I want to explore the more traditional or popular notion of charity, that being charitable with my money. Firstly, I don't think it is only up to the rich to be charitable. Back in my Hollywood days when I was making pennies, I found it very difficult to part with my money because it truly was hard-earned, and scarce besides. I am not proud of it, because I do think it's important to give, even if it is a little, especially to cultivate a 'habit' of giving. When I complained to a friend several years ago about how difficult it was to tithe on such a low income, she looked at me squarely and asked, "won't it be more difficult when you are making more money and 10% means $8,000 instead of $2500?"
I don't think I've even gotten to the point where I am giving 10%, but looking back, it probably is a bit easier now that I'm living a little more comfortably. At any rate, the end of the year is a good chance for me to look back and "true up."
And so, I put this question to you wise folks: if you were inclined to give, where would you give it? The easiest answer for me is my old church in Mountain View, which I believe is doing some truly good and amazing work, from workshops that help people managing their debt to support groups for women with a relative who is incarcerated.
But this year I'd like to expand the possible list of recipients, not only for my personal giving but for anyone who's reading this, who might be interested in giving as well. I also prefer to focus on organizations that aren't traditionally popular among the wealthy or otherwise "chic." I'm especially interested in learning more about organizations that focus on seniors and the elderly, as they seem to comprise a relatively ignored population (sure not as popular as babies, women and various specific diseases).
Here's a list of organizations I find compelling, but I'd love to hear of some other worthy organizations you might have come across:
- Asylum Access (helps those oppressed by political turmoil navigate the legal systems in their country of refuge)
- Doctors Without Borders and Reporters Without Borders
- WWF (that would be World Wildlife Fund, not Worldwide Wrestling Federation)
- The Mango Tree
- Heifer International
- American Red Cross
- Union of Concerned Scientists
- World Vision
Update: Wow thanks everyone for all the additional suggestions! Here are some more ideas from various people:
- CityTeam Ministries (homeless outreach in SF and other major cities)
- Glide Memorial Methodist Church (homeless outreach in SF) - interesting I'd never heard of it before.
- SEED schools
- Polaris Project
- Arlington Free Clinic
- Childrens Hunger Fund
- Education Pioneers
- Dress for Success
- e3 Partners
- A Single Drop
- Habitat for Humanity
- William J. Clinton Foundation
- Amnesty International
- Just a Drop
- Room to Read
- Taproot Foundation