Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Finding a good cause and sticking to it

Note: This column appears in the 11/6 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 11/7 issue of the Peoria Times

I have been trying to be more charitable lately.

This may be a direct result of the guilt I felt after my wife and I recently purchased a new 42” flat screen television (not her idea), which now broadcasts -- in HD -- those commercials featuring starving children in foreign lands. But the truth is that I had been feeling the urge to be more charitable even before upgrading TVs, which makes the fact that we bought the TV anyway an indication that I’m not off to a good start.

I’ve always tried to give here and there. For example, every single time I’m checking out at our local Safeway and I’m asked if I’d like to donate to so-and-so, I’m like, “Sure, throw a dollar on the ol’ credit card there -- that should solve it.” (By the way, I would donate more if they would lower the ridiculous price of their tomatoes. Seriously, Safeway tomatoes are so expensive.)

But lately something has been tugging at me, imploring me to give more. It may have started at church a few months ago, when a man came to speak on behalf of a great organization called Esperanza. My wife and I decided to make a small financial commitment to them, and things started to snowball from there.

Wait, did I say snowball? I meant snowflake. Here’s what happened: I got so caught up in the spirit of giving that I made a promise to myself to never refuse a solicitation for a charitable donation, no matter how little I was able to give. The end result of this was me writing $2.78 checks to the Nebraska Crop Farmers Association.

The promise I made to myself lasted approximately ten days. Apparently, my thought process generated brain waves that traveled to every local charity organization within a 50-mile radius, and the following day I began receiving dozens of letters, all eagerly awaiting my reply, many of which contained pictures of sick children who were relying on me. Luckily, I needn’t worry about return labels, of which I now have three billion, and which I would simply stick on the reply envelope of whatever organization was next on the pile. It was quite a cycle.

I couldn’t keep up. Plus, I didn’t have enough time to research all of the organizations I was contributing to. Sure, they all had familiar names, but I wasn’t always certain how the money was being distributed. The last thing I wanted was my seven dollars going towards the production of more Snoopy-themed return labels.

This had to stop. A thought occurred to me: maybe I should focus on contributing to just a few organizations that I trust. I liked Esperanza and a charity called Food for the Poor, but I was also thinking about something more localized.

Last week I approached my boss with the idea of our paper teaming up with a charity for the holidays, and without hesitation he provided his suggestion: The Salvation Army. It’s one of the most trustworthy and recognizable (especially during the holidays) organizations in the country, and there are local branches in Glendale, Peoria, and Sun City. So be on the lookout for ways you can help contribute in the coming issues of the paper.

As for me personally, I feel like I’ve narrowed down my charitable commitments to those I feel comfortable with. And you can, too. It doesn’t even have to be a monetary donation – it could be time, food, clothes…whatever. Take us, for example. It suddenly turns out we have a perfectly working non-flat screen television to donate.

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