Lately I’ve been having a feeling of scarcity. It is a feeling that I am ashamed of, because my fiancé and I are so blessed. We make good money, we recently bought the home of our dreams, we have two vehicles, enough money to fund retirement and entertain ourselves…but it has not felt like enough. In our defense, our bills increased substantially over the course of the last six months which certainly adds to this feeling of scarcity; we are working to pay off his car entirely, pay for our wedding and honeymoon in cash, and just purchased the home of our dreams, so funds that we were used to seeing on bank statements for the last several years have been depleted.
Instead of celebrating our life of abundance, I have let this feeling leave me insecure, and wanting to hoard money and earnings just like a squirrel who competitively buries all the nuts he can find for fear of the winter famine to come. But in reality, this is leading me to feel even more insecure and even less abundant.
And so it was with an empathetic and open heart that I listened to a segment on NPR last week that talked about the lack of pure, altruistic, charitable giving in the United States . In its place has been self-gratifying or self-rewarding charitable giving—the kind that you receive tangible benefits in return—or no charitable giving at all. The benefits include trinkets which prominently display your generosities (like pink ribbons and bracelets for breast cancer donors), or being able to tout your givings as a corporation and thus making yourself more competitive, or donating solely for tax benefits, etc.
Throughout the year I have donated several bags of clothing to local thrift stores, and I have given out soy joy bars to homeless people at traffic lights. I also have dropped off several bags of toiletry items to a domestic abuse women’s shelter. But have I really given of myself? When I donated those bags of clothing, it was more with the intent of cleaning out our closets so that we would not have to pack and ship more boxes. The soy joy bars are free items that I scored from extracare bucks at CVS. The toiletries were also from various free deals I gathered from CVS throughout the year. I absolutely loved donating these items and it made me feel good to help others out, but besides a little time on my end, these items did not cost me anything. And if they had, I could have taken that cost as a tax deduction . Is that truly charitable giving?
When I was fifteen, I approached my parents with the idea of adopting a child overseas. I was making my own money at the time mucking horse stalls, and so each month I would pay the money to my parents who would write a $15 check out to the organization, which clothed, schooled, and fed her. The child’s name was Belkis. One year for her birthday I sent an extra $10, and she wrote a letter telling me how she was able to purchase a pair of jeans with it. I felt such joy and compassion towards this child. By not sharing this with anyone, I did it for the right reasons (except my parents knew because they had to write the check each month).
Somewhere over the years even though my income has risen dramatically, I have managed to feel more scarceness than I did when I made $90 per week and supported a little girl overseas. I have given this some thought this holiday season, and have come up with a possible explanation. I am competitive at heart and so I don’t just want to save money, I want to save the most money. If I were to check ‘yes’ on my electricity bill to add a few dollars to the fund for people who cannot afford heating and lighting, then that would shave percentages off my money-saving margins that I tediously accumulated all month by unplugging power chords when not in use. If I were to give $1000 to a charity in 2009, then all of the extra earnings I received would not have been added to my bottom line .
No matter what the reasons have been, I would like to change this. I have decided that in 2010, I am going to choose a charity or a cause, and donate consistently to it with actual money out of my earnings, and without sharing what organization/person it is. I am sure I will continue to donate items that are gently used, and toiletries, but I will make this cash donation the crux of my charitable giving.
What are some resolutions, or things you would like to improve upon in your own life for 2010?