||[Jun. 3rd, 2007|06:59 pm]
the_alchemist wrote a long and interesting post on charity, with further thought-provoking discussion in the comments. I've been mulling it over in odd moments since reading it; there are points raised by several people to which I would like to respond, but am not yet sure how to put my thoughts into words.|
There did seem to be a general view that charity = making a monetary donation. That may well be because the main topic of the post was about giving your money where it could do the most good. But I also think it reflects a view which is widely held in society today - that by making a donation to a particular organisation (or organisations) you have done your bit.*
Of course giving money is important, especially if you have planned & researched it so that you feel it is being used in the most effective way possible. If this is seen as the *only* way to support charities or to fulfil your charitable obligations, though, two problems arise.
Firstly, there are those who may not be able to contribute a large amount of money. If you are not working, or have a low income, a tenth of your income may not be possible or may seem like an unfeasibly small amount. To say that charity is about money is to disenfranchise those who have time or skills or both to offer, and belittle their contribution.
More importantly, charity is about love; not an emotional love but a no-nonsense, practical regard for other human beings that asks "How can I help bear this other person's burden?" - not some mass of humanity elsewhere but those individuals - part of our community, wherever they may be in the world - who need our help. To send off a cheque each month to an organisation that works in a distant country and do nothing beyond that allows you to keep others and their needs at arms' length.**
People's problems can be messy, difficult, and time-consuming. Charity is about doing what we can to help them, in *all* the communities in which we live - work, neighbourhood, town, country and globally. This may involve time, chores, stopping to chat when we'd rather get home - but to reduce it to money alone denies a huge and important part.
*Please note that I am not saying that *everyone* thinks this.
(lightly edited to add links 14/06)