Giving to Charities? The Question of the Week
The holidays are coming. In case you haven't noticed.
It is especially during these times that we are asked to donate to charities and causes. And I have to tell you that I have mixed feelings about it. Not about giving. But how and to whom.
I have been the recipient of charity and I am very grateful to this day for it. For example, one Thanksgiving my mother and I had no food so we got some from a local church. It was a very humbling experience but it also made me more willing to give when I have the chance.
But there are so many charities and causes out there and I tend to begin feeling guilty at this time of year. I have Multiple Sclerosis so...I guess I am supposed to give to the National MS Society. I have a child with autism so it is expected for me to donate to the autism sociey. I also have depression so...contributing to NAMI is on the list. I have pets so I get the reminders to donate to the ASPCA or animal shelters. I had a friend who was very involved in an AIDS task force so I get letters from them to donate funds.
It can seem overwhelming and especially when you don't have much to spend on your own family for the holidays.
I remember a woman I met at a conference who was a blogger writing about her experience battling breast cancer. She talked about hating those pink ribbons and how it was expected that if you had breast cancer you had to buy the pink ribbon as some sort of product whether it was a pin or t-shirt. Perhaps this isn't a popular thing to say but I tend to agree with her.
Maybe it is for the same reason that I don't want to purchase a puzzle piece (representing autism) bumper sticker or tote bag just because I have a son with autism.
I also don't want to send my friends and family holiday letters from the MS Society asking them to donate on my behalf.
Add to my list of charity don'ts...I don't want to donate to a charity through a person who says they are collecting on their website for a larger organization.
My greatest opposition to some charity campaigns is that they make you feel guilty if you have the disease, illness, or disorder and you don't cough up some money for "the team." Or some could say that guilt is self-imposed. But tell me I am not alone in feeling like once you are diagnosed then you are branded with a disease identity where it is expected you will give money for awareness products and projects. There is an inherent obligation. In other words, if you or a loved one has breast cancer, for example, you gotta buy the pink ribbons or you are labeled as unsupportive.
I think when it comes to charity the emphasis should be on the giving part. You don't need to always give money to some big organization. Time is sometimes way more valuable than money. Giving someone with cancer a ride to the doctor for their chemo might be more appreciated than the pink ribbon. Someone offering to babysit my son with autism (hasn't happened yet :>)) will promote autism awareness far more than wearing a puzzle piece on a t-shirt. In my humble opinion but of course, money giving is important too...don't get me wrong. But I think there are many ways to give to others. And I think we can be selective.
Which brings me to our question of the week:
How do you decide which charities to give to during the holiday season? Do you feel obligated to give to certain charities due to your mental or medical illness?
Let us know what you think! We are eager to hear from you.