Last night I had the pleasure of attending a fund raiser for the Essex Art Center in Lawrence. The EAC’s focus is to empower children by enabling them to explore their own creative resources, allowing them to recognize their self worth. Lawrence’s schools are consistently rated among the lowest in the state. The EACs after school and summer programs are the only opportunity for many of the students to be introduced to art in it’s many forms. There they are encouraged to express themselves through various creative methods.
I started thinking about the constant appeals for money, goods, and/or time that besiege us continually. Every day the mailbox and email bring pleas from a charity/worthy cause. Food pantries, homeless shelters, medical research, school groups, all sorts of needs close to home. Earthquakes, floods, famine, war, further from us but with us daily in news and TV. Somalia, Haiti, India, Afghanistan, the suffering in the world seems endless.
Altruism is a part of our culture and I believe that Americans are a generous people. I grew up in a family that tithed, giving 10% of before tax income to our church and often nearly that much to other charities. In my father’s old age I helped him with his check book and was surprised at all the $5 checks that went to a long list of charities out of his small social security check and tiny pension.
I’d like to help all those people but I have to choose carefully. I’ve spent time on Charity Navigator and Charity Watch and decided that I will no longer send money to large charities that pay their CEOs huge sums of money and whose fund raising eats up a large amount of the budget. Most of my mail now goes into the recycle bin unopened. I can’t fix all the hunger, disease, and misery in the world and reading about it makes me feel helpless and sad.
I now give whatever money is available to organizations with missions that I feel passionately about and know will use the money wisely.