Today is NaBloPoMo Day 28 — two more days!! — and my theme of choice is Charity. Hop back to yesterday’s post if you feel like reading about just how charitable I was feeling towards my sister- and brother-in-law after their Thanksgiving visit.
It’s trendy these days to refer to the Tuesday after Thanksgiving weekend as Giving Tuesday. A day where, after spending your paycheck and then some on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you’re meant to dig even deeper into your pocket and give charitably to others. It’s a lovely idea, but my guess is that most people are feeling a little overspent by the time Giving Tuesday rolls around.
Nevertheless, Giving Tuesday has me thinking about my own approach to charity. Over the years, I’ve struggled to develop a consistent or meaningful theory about how or when I should give to others. Do I give to people or to organizations? Do I give money or things? Do I give based on perceived need or perceived desert?
I’ve never been very charitable in the past, at least not with hard cold cash. I’ve donated here and there to my almae matres and things like the Terry Fox Run. And after I realized it was cool to buy coffee for the person behind you in line at the Starbucks drive-thru, I also did that once. And then as I drove away, starting to feel pretty good about myself, I suddenly thought, what the fuck? My version of charity is to cover a $4.50 expense for someone who owns a car and can already afford their own Starbucks? Is that the best I can do?
If I have $4.50 to give, shouldn’t I be giving it to someone who really needs it? Someone who can use that money to buy themselves a meal when they wouldn’t otherwise eat? I really should be giving the money to someone living on the street, right?
The concept of giving money to a homeless person raises very complex emotions for me though. And no, it’s not because I question what they will buy with the money or whether they actually deserve it. It’s because my own little brother is homeless — truly, actually, really homeless.
Even though this is an anonymous blog, I am mortified to make this confession. Not because I am ashamed of my little brother for being homeless, but because I am ashamed of myself for having a homeless little brother. For being a spectator and letting it happen. It is a life-long story that I couldn’t possibly do justice to in one or two blog posts, but suffice it to say, my whole family is in agreement that my brother is beyond help. That there’s nothing we can sanely do to rectify his situation. But I still feel so deeply, gut-wrenchingly guilty about it. He’s my own flesh and blood, and I’m not doing everything in my waking power to keep him off the streets. I can’t forgive myself for it.
So maybe you can imagine how giving to others feels a little hypocritical to me. I’m not financially supporting my own little brother, who I grew up with and love very much, but I’ll readily give some change to someone on the street that I don’t know from Adam? It doesn’t make any sense. But at the same time, I know my brother makes his living off of those same donations from other people. And I am eternally grateful to those who stop while passing and drop some change in his cup, because they are keeping him alive. So maybe the person I am passing on the street is someone else’s little brother.
I don’t know what to do, which is why I spend a lot of energy trying not to think about the whole situation. Which makes me feel even more guilty, because if I’m not going to support my little brother, surely I could at least give him the courtesy of my thoughts from time to time. Basically, I’m a horrible person.
Until next time,