I did, twice this week.
And each time my wife scolded me.
She tells me it’s smarter to give to “legitimate” charities because you never know if these panhandlers are lying.
Which is true, you don’t, but what if they aren’t?
What if they do have cancer and no home and 5 kids who can’t afford to eat dinner that night?
What if they are a war vet without a leg or a place to go?
I told her I have faith in humanity, and if they really were duping me, well, they need even more help than I can give them.
I also reminded her that I don’t like giving to charity-charities because I never get to see where any of my donations actually go.
I know where they tell me it goes, and I see all the pictures of the sad kids/dogs/countries, but I don’t get to see the exact ones who actually get my money.
I also don’t appreciate the 13 emails I subsequently get every week there after.
Or that when I hit “unsubscribe,” I start getting requests in the mail instead (!!!)
I remind her that this was what prompted Nate and I to start Love Drop – our attempt at making a difference in *one* person’s life directly vs a hundred/thousand/million indirectly.
A project we filmed every month so that people could literally see the faces of the people we helped when we handed over their cash or gifts they had mailed in.
All $90,000 of it.
The reaction on both sides were indescribable (the ones who gave, and the ones who received)
I harbor no ill will towards reputable charities – they’re very much needed in this world of ours – I’m just personally more affected by one-to-one interactions than one-to-organizational ones.
And since I suck so much at contributing to these places, I have a rule for myself that says I have to say “yes” any time I’m asked for money by any one person.
There are limits of course, like if Uncle Jack wants $5,000 for a jet ski – that doesn’t count – but if someone asks to help them fund raise for something important to them, I have to say yes.
I may not be invested in the charitable cause itself, but it doesn’t matter – I’m invested in my friends and my family.
Last month I was asked if I’d contribute to a “walk-a-thon” for a kid, and I gladly said yes.
Yesterday I was asked if I would contribute to friend’s mission to Africa, and so I said yes to that too.
I may not give to world famous charities, but I’m no asshole :)
My wife very much understands this, of course, but says I should at least limit the amount of money I then give to the panhandlers since I restrict myself from saying no.
And, usually, I do.
I typically have tons of change and dollar bills in my car console for exactly these situations (when asked to give while sitting at a light).
But this time I decided to “make it hurt.”
A passage from the Bible crept in and reminded me that it’s a much bigger sacrifice for a poor person to donate a dollar than it is for a wealthy one to donate $1,000.
The more it stings, the better you’re doing.
(At least according to the Bible)
Now, I didn’t reach in my wallet and give these less fortunate ones a $1,000 bill (I’m not that bad ass yet!), but I did give $15.00 worth.
The first I handed over $5.00 which was a lot harder to give than $1.00.
And the next I challenged myself and handed over a $10.00 bill which hurt more than the $5.00 bill, and even more so than the $1.00 bill.
That was the part that my wife had the beef with.
“Wasting” $1.00 is nothing, but reaching for the bigger bills is.
If, of course, you believe the person on the other side is deceiving you.
Which I do not.
Either way, it made for a great discussion between the wife and I, and so I thought I’d continue it here.
(With you guys, not my wife – she’s tired of me ;))
So, tell me…
Do you give money to the homeless and/or panhandlers?
Do you have any of your own rules for donating to charity?
Are you wondering why I’m writing this entire article in one-liners?
I don’t know why I do half the things I do, but I do know that goodness is the only investment that never fails.
And I know this because Henry David Thoreau said so and he’s pretty smart.
UPDATE: I don’t actually have a problem with the “where the money goes” debate with legitimate charities. They all have overhead and at the end of the day they do a ton of good in the world (we also had overhead at Love Drop). I just have a problem with not physically seeing/knowing which person(s) specifically is getting my money. It’s a silly request – and one that a large organization would have a tough time pulling off – but it’s what motivates me to give in the end. Seeing that personal connection and knowing it’s making a difference in that specific person’s life. Kinda like that Starfish story.
[Photo cred: stevendepolo]