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April 24, 2004



The company I work at has a United Way Drive every September. That's the only place I give at now; though I do earmark from their list which charities it should go to.

Bethany Watkins

Charity. I don't have to look farther than my own family. On my side, I have a 32 year old brother, who is a father of three kids, who can't seem to hold down a job. He drinks too much and never graduated from high school, but those are just a few of his seemingly endless problems. Many say "Make your bed and lie in it," but how can you do that while looking into the eyes of your nieces and nephew? The innocent victims. And then there's my elderly grandmother who pays hundreds of dollars each month on her medication for her many health problems, barely leaving her enough to pay for her basic necessities. (Yet she still gets suckered in by those free address labels and donates money to UNICEF.) And I can't forget my husband's sister, a single mother of two girls, struggling as a waitress at Shoney's. If I sit here for a few more minutes I could rattle off a dozen families that I know personally; families that I love who are in need of a little "charity." So for every nickel and dime I give away to the American Heart Association, Veterans, and Shriner's (all of them wonderful charities) I think, WOW, I could have really helped out my own family and loved ones.

Still, the guilt for not giving to those who send us the free greeting cards and return address labels haunts me as well. What am I supposed to do with those damn labels? Do I keep them and use them even though I have no intentions of ever donating to the ASPCA or wherever they came from?? Should I throw them away and pretend I never received them?? I don't know the right answer to this. If these organizations would stop spending money on all the gimmicks, maybe they could pour it back into their own charity funds.

I think the true answer is to follow your heart. If for some reason, on a particular day, your heart tells you to give that money to whatever charity is asking, then do it. It doesn't mean you ever have to donate to them again. Maybe try a different charity every year and see how that goes. The problem is you sound like you have the same problem that I have: It's so hard to say "no", and when you do say it, your social conscience gets the best of you.

We can't change the world alone. We probably can't even put a dent in it. But if we can make one person's life a little brighter today, whether it be giving a dollar to a homeless person on the street or even holding the door for an old man at the bank, then you've been charitable. Kindness and helpfulness are as much a charity for those who need it as any money you can give.

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