Selfish Charity

My wife recently found a phone app that plays soothing sounds to help her fall asleep.  So I get in bed last night and close my eyes to the sound of gentle beach waves and the smell of lavender coming from our new essential oil diffuser  ….and I laugh.  I mean, when did we become these people?  I couldn’t figure out if we were getting old or trying too hard.  Either way — it was kinda nice.

I started thinking about how, regardless of how little it feels we have at times, we actually have so much.  I’m in a soft bed, atop a heated mattress pad, next to my beautiful wife, experiencing the sounds and smells of a day spa.  And as fast as I felt lucky, I felt guilty.  Images of people in shelters and kids sleeping on sidewalks filled my head.  Suddenly the day spa wasn’t so relaxing.  Instead, I felt anxious as I tried to think of ways I could actually help those people vs just feel for them as I surround myself in comfort.

That’s when reality really hit.  It’s not that I couldn’t think of ways to help, it’s that I couldn’t think of ways that I felt I would actually follow through with. That’s embarrassing to admit, but I think it’s probably more the norm than not.  I think most people have a lot of compassion for those in need, but most also think “aw” when it’s in their face and then move on.  It’s not that they don’t want to help, it’s that they just …forget.

Thinking back over the charitable things I’ve done in my life, they’ve all had a personal tie to someone I love.  I’ve spent multiple ways raising funds for the fight against breast cancer and MS because my family has been impacted by both.  I recently spearheaded a toy drive and, while that benefited children who were all strangers to me, it was actually in honor of a friend who used to work with them.  Years ago I helped build a Habitat for Humanity house – an amazing experience – but it was part of a team event and could have easily been building a shelter for squirrels and I would’ve still been in just to be a part of the group.  So I’m charitable in a selfish way.  Selfish in that I only give of my time and money if I … what … care enough?!

It’s hard to think of helping the masses and yet that’s how most charity is set up.  You’re helping “the homeless” or “the whales” or “the forest” …you’re rarely helping Timmy Johnson who’s been effected by fill in the blank…. and yet that’s what we, I believe, are most moved to action by.  Helping individuals – a name, a face, a broken heart – vs adding a drop in the bucket to be split between ALL the Timmys in the world. We need that connection …or at least I do.

So rather than beat myself up about this new realization, I’m going to use it as just that — an awakening to what moves me.  I would love to do something charitable at least once a quarter.  Now that I understand what would motivate me the most, I can begin to narrow down who/what/where to help and do so with a passion and drive that won’t come from the generic “I should be more charitable” guilt that comes in the middle of the night.

I challenge you to find what moves you ….and put it to good use!

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