Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Benefits of Charity

You may have noticed from this post that charity is important to me. I was raised with Kennedy's words "For of those to whom much is given, much is required," based of course, on the scripture. Being a common refrain in my house as a child, this quote helped insure that stewardship was instilled in me at a young age.

I truly believe that everyone has something to give that will help someone else; I am a strong supporter in the idea that there is no one so down that she does not have something of value to offer. 

So when it comes to charity, what is there to give?

There's money, of course. And that's incredibly important. No organization is able to offer services that will drastically affect change without money. But there's also time. The dollars don't do much unless for every dollar that's donated, someone is there to do the hard work.

If one can donate money, she should. But if one can donate time, that is equally important. Whether or not one has money to donate, donating time is a wonderful and important way to keep those dollar donations working hard.

While I donate money to a wide range of causes, I also work with a few nonprofits which I have chosen carefully, and I am loyal to their work. One of the charities that's close to my heart is a homeless shelter here in New York City. I started volunteering overnight about eight years ago, and when I finally told my mother (I was afraid she'd worry), she said she was not surprised, because as a child I saved up my allowance to put in the cups of homeless people I saw on the street. Clearly, this is a natural place for me to spend my efforts.

In the time I've been volunteering, I've had the satisfaction of watching some guests move into assisted living, and later heard of their success of moving into their own housing. I've watched guests wake just a few hours after lights out to dress and head off to a difficult job. I've overheard phone conversations with family members that broke my heart. I've been given some very good, if unsolicited, advice.  And I've been beaten embarrassingly badly in Scrabble.

During these years, I've also met some amazing people - both other volunteers, as well as guests - all of whom have shown more manners than one's average encounter at any given upscale New York hot spot.

One of the things I have learned from volunteering overnight at the homeless shelter is that no matter the financial place one is in, she always, always has something of value to give to someone else, and that there is also always someone who is in need of what she can offer. Whether it's a dollar, or an hour, or a kind word, we all can offer something, and we all make a difference in someone's world when we choose to make the sacrifice, and offer that something to strangers.

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"There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- God damn it, you've got to be kind."
-Kurt Vonnegut