I’m pretty tired today so I am a little afraid that this might come off as garbled or sanctimonious. It’s not meant to be either. I just wish someone would mention some of these things when they ask for donations. And I wish there were never any reasons to need the organizations that need donations. But neither of those wishes are practical so here’s what I think is a little more practical…
1. Don’t give until it hurts, please. Look, the fact of the matter is that we all need to do our part, within our own means. If you “give until it hurts” you simply become another person who needs help. I sometimes feel that I am not doing enough and then I remember that I need to be able to support myself before I can support anyone else, otherwise, I become part of the need.
2. If you can’t give today, we’ll still have need tomorrow. I really wish all the fundraisers would emphasize this. This particular disaster is going need an ongoing recovery, and it’s going to take a very long time. If you don’t have that dollar to offer today please remember that people will still need your help tomorrow, and six months from now and two years from now.
3. Put your money where your mouth (or heart) is. If you are a passionate animal right activist, there are organizations that need your help. If you are a preservationist of historical architecture, there are organizations that need your help. If you are a child’s rights advocate, there are organizations that need your help. It’s all valid and don’t let anyone tell you it’s not. Give your money to the branch of religion you support, give your money to the libraries to get books to the kids, it’s all important and it’s all needed. And some things really will be needed more later. New Orleans is a city of historical value; we’re not going to write it off, no matter what people may say. If everyone can support the organization of his or her choice, the money has a chance of being well distributed (or at least better distributed).
4. Do what you can, not what you wish you could do. If you can knit, make some blankets, if you can contribute money, send some money, if you have a boat and can help get people out, by all means, go for it. But keep in mind what is within your capabilities. If you are too weak to stand, you can’t lift a person from their roof. If the sight of blood sickens you, you can’t work triage. Don’t put yourself in a position that makes you a liability to those you are trying to help.
5. Don’t forget the people at home. The devastation of Hurricane Katrina is big. Very, very big. There was delay, unacceptable delay, in getting help to the city but there is help now. Maybe not enough but I don’t know that we ever could have enough. So, if you can’t give here and now but you know that the soup kitchen down the street needs help, maybe you can give there. Katrina will divert needed funds from other causes, and no one should complain about that. But there is need elsewhere and we need to remember that too. No one person can do it all. No one organization can do it all. But every little bit does count so your contribution to your local charities takes the pressure of someone else who has diverted their funds to relief for the people and the city of New Orleans. It’s all good and it’s all important.
6. All disasters look the same from the inside. Bad is bad, I don’t think it’s my job to judge who needs my dollar more when everyone needs it. And I don’t think it’s anyone else’s either. If people ask you what they can do, offer your charities and organizations of choice, but don’t judge them if they choose another. Everyone needs support.
7. This is not what gets you into heaven. We don’t do this for the brownie points, we do it because human life is valuable, animal life is valuable, art and history are valuable. This is not measured in dollars. Two of my favorite platitudes apply here, “Some is most often better than none” and “There but for the grace of god go I.” Let’s all hope that when we are in need people will step up.
8. Give in comfort. I don’t mean in the comfort of your couch but I mean within your realm of comfort. Check out your charity and make sure you are comfortable with how they distribute their funds. If you work in a shelter or as a volunteer somewhere, make sure you are comfortable in the situation. You can’t help someone if you are in danger yourself.
None of this means we shouldn’t challenge ourselves or stretch ourselves. Lord knows that I can tighten my belt a little more to make sure that someone else doesn’t have to. We can all do more but we still need to be aware of our limits.