It seems that I get requests to give to a variety of causes and events on a weekly basis. Someone is running for a cure or a new baby is born or a family is having financial difficulties or a charitable organization is holding a fundraiser or someone is getting married or moving into a new home. All of these events require that I open my wallet and contribute. The problem I have is that my money is finite. No matter how much money one has, there is still a limited supply. When I give to one cause, it means that those dollars cannot go to another. Sometimes I consider all of the causes to be good ones; other times, I have ethical questions about them. At all times I want to make a wise decision on how to allocate my limited resources.
Because of the constant demand and my personal dilemma, I want to come up with a giving policy. I want my choices to be ones that contribute to the greatest good and not to support a cause just because a friend or neighbor is involved. This will sometimes put me in a difficult situation. However, because I have limited resources, I feel that giving to one takes away from another. I want to establish some personal guidelines to help me sort it out, to determine if a request is a need or a want. If all the needs in the world were met, I'd be glad to help with some of the wants. But the reality of it all is that there are so many needs with serious consequences, often life or death consequences, that it's hard to justify supporting mere desires.
It really bothers me when I mentally line up desperate needs next to frivolous wants. It seems to me that our middle class culture has taken a wrong turn. We have endless events that require us to spend money that would be better spent on other more urgent needs. The cult of consumerism has taken over and we look for any opportunity to run to the mall. We also support fundraising events without questioning the methods or the results. Just mention a disease and we open our wallets to support products or events that claim to support the cause. If we don't, we appear callous. It's a knee-jerk reaction that I want to end. I think we should ask questions: Does the money really support research for a cure or does it go to support funding for pharmaceutical companies? Are the products we buy in support of a cause actually contributing to the problem by increasing chemical pollution in our food supply and in our bodies? Does our friend, neighbor, or family member actually need the item that we're purchasing or is our purchase just one of the niceties we go through in our culture?
I want to stop blindly following the rules of etiquette and to start making the moral choice. I would rather contribute to a shelter for the homeless than to buy a gift for a housewarming party. It's not about being cheap. It's about parceling out my finite resources in a way that is right and moral.
(Photo credit: http://www.sxc.hu)