While Christmas, and most of the holiday season for that matter has passed us already, I wanted to touch upon a subject which I think is important. What’s the subject, you say? The answer to that question, is altruism. For many, the holiday season is about giving, but are we really giving to people in need when we gift someone an Xbox one or a new pair of pants? In certain situations it could be argued that these are necessities, but more often than not, we are giving gifts to people who don’t need them. Let me just quickly say, that I don’t want anyone to think that I’m against giving presents to people, and that by giving a gift to someone you care about is inherently bad. Bear with me for a minute, and hopefully this will all make sense to you by the end of the article.
Much like a ship without a rudder, giving to someone who doesn’t need it accomplishes nothing. There is power in helping others, but often times that power can be misguided. If the holiday season is truly all about good will towards mankind, then why is the focus on getting presents instead of helping those who actually need help? I want to try to frame the holiday season in a different light. I want to, for a second, imagine a world where once a year everyone who has more resources than those who have less band together to help those who are struggling. A world where instead of asking, ‘what do you want’, we would ask ‘who do you want to help?’. Whether you celebrate Christmas from a religious or a secular standpoint, consumerism has changed what it means to celebrate each other and to celebrate the holiday itself. Instead of filling someone else’s house with last-minute gifts which will collect dust on a shelf for months, you could lend a hand to someone who could really use your support.
Over the past two or so years, I have become very ardent about not wanting surprise gifts, while simultaneously only wanting specific gifts which I ask for. Chances are if you give someone what they want for Christmas, they won’t be sad because the surprise is dead, but rather happy because they know that they will love and cherish the gift they got. In fact, almost half of presents that are given are unwanted by the accepting party. I digress. Where was I again? Oh, yeah, talking about charitable giving. It’s important, and should garner more attention to people not only during the year but during the holiday season as well.
Half of Puerto Rico still doesn’t have power. Syria is still ravaged with war. Many residents of Flint, Michigan still have drinking water contaminated with lead. Native Americans are still having their voices silenced by the US government. Literal slavery still exists in parts of this world and almost 1 billion people don’t have access to clean drinking water. There’s also likely pockets of severe poverty in your own comfortable neighborhood. Should I keep going? If all of this expendable money is spent on unwanted presents, surely that money could be better allocated for any of these people who are in dire need of help.
If it’s truly better to give than to receive, why is it that we often give gifts only with the intention that we will receive something back as well? When someone donates to a charity in my name, I’m usually thankful but also feel somewhat shortchanged. Christmas, at this point has come to be a time where I have expected presents, and if that expectation is not met, then I would feel unwanted and undervalued. But why? Would that even be the case? If I’ve never missed a meal and have plenty of clothes and 9/10 of the things that I’ve ever wanted, am I really undervalued? So far, charitable giving has been an outlet to exercise giving to those who cannot give back, which is a profound thing. Human nature dictates that we accumulate objects for our own status and survival, and it almost feels alien giving money away without seeing a tangible product.
Even if you are giving to a charity, there can often be hidden biases and motives which you are unaware of. Depending on your ideologies, you may or may not want to support to a charity which incorporates religious beliefs into their giving practices. You also should take into consideration how much of your money is going to those in need and how much is going towards administrative fees of any given nonprofit. After all, you want your money going to those in need and not to pay for the nonprofit’s president’s private jet. Something also to consider is almost essentially a triage of who is in need the most. This may be somewhat subjective, but I feel like life or death situations should always take precedent.
I think it is vitally important for other people to know about societal issues. If people truly knew what was going on around them, they would care. While turning a cold shoulder to the issues plaguing society is very easy, if we show others that we care about these issues, they in turn will care about them. Awareness is great, but awareness without action is kind of useless in my opinion. If you know that your friend is stuck at the bottom of the well but don’t do anything about it, were you really helping? By telling someone about your friend at the bottom of the well who can help them get out, you are by extension helping them. For this reason, I want it to be more commonplace for people to share that they are donating to charity. Not to be boastful or self-absorbed, but to draw attention to the cause. For instance, your Facebook post might say ‘I just donated to the Hispanic Federation because Puerto Rico deserves our support. Will you join me in helping our fellow American citizens?’. Mentioning amounts is by no means necessary, but if you feel so inclined and want people to try to match your donation, so be it.
I want to turn this into an annual occurrence where we all band together to help out our fellow humans who are in need. This year I got somewhat of a late start because of the school year, but next year I want to start it around the beginning of December. This year, I’m choosing to donate to the Hispanic Federation in order to assist them in rebuilding Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria. I encourage you to join me in helping them, but if you feel strongly about donating to a cause which is important to you, that’s fine as well. If you feel so inclined, when you make a donation to charity, make a post about it with a brief description of why you’re donating along with the hashtag #PennyForMyThoughts. Together we can make this world a better place where people have to suffer less.
Those are my thoughts, What are yours?
If you want to donate to the Hispanic Federation, you can do so at https://hispanicfederation.org/donate/
90 cents of every dollar goes to those in need.