Capitalism is great because it rewards hard work. I am a big beneficiary of this! But not because I work super hard. Mostly I’ve been rewarded due to the hard work that my family did generations before me.
I think of it as – I grew up in a can’t-lose situation. If you ran my life 100 times, I’d guess 99 of them end up successful, to varying degrees. That’s generally how it goes growing up in a wealthy neighborhood with great schools and great parents; the road is freshly paved with big wide lanes and people helping you along the way.
There are communities less than an hour from my childhood house where if you ran a kids life 100 times, maybe 50 of them end up ‘successful’, while some percent end up in jail, some percent are derailed by drugs, and some percent end up dead, due to very little fault of the kid. Their road is one lane with a lot of potholes and a lot people pulling you down the wrong ‘shortcut’. It’s more difficult to make it.
I bring this up because, given the advantages I’ve had in life, I feel an obligation to ‘give back‘.
I think a lot of people feel some responsibility to contribute to the betterment of not just the people they know, but of humankind. Whether that’s innate human nature or something society has instilled in us I don’t know (though I lean the former), but there’s a regular feeling of ‘I have a lot, I should be doing more to help others‘.
That said, I pretty much never give back.
That’s an exaggeration, I donate small bits of money here and there, and I volunteered once in 2016. But it’s small stuff compared to what I could be doing, or what I feel like I should be doing.
How to Give Back
Donate money – Pick a charity or cause you care about and give them money! That’s pretty easy. It takes a couple minutes to go online and give.
Volunteer time – Pick a charity or cause you care about and give them time! Also pretty easy, though more limited in what options you have.
Why Don’t I Give Back?
Money – Right or wrong, I have this notion that donating to ‘big’ charities is a waste. I read a bad story like 7 years ago about a big corrupt charity and to this day I have no faith that my money will go to the people I want to help. I typically don’t donate unless the cause is directly related to someone or something I know (which doesn’t come up that often).
Time – This SEEMS straightforward, but when it comes down to “Am I really going to stay in on Friday so I can volunteer on Saturday morning for three hours?”, it’s REALLY easy to say “maybe not this weekend…”. Additionally, I don’t know what I’d volunteer for, and unless the opportunity super conveniently presents itself, I’ll just keep moving along.
In fact, I don’t really know anyone that volunteers aside from my old coworkers. Not to point the finger elsewhere, but it doesn’t seem like volunteering is something many of us do.
Where does that leave me?
I’m basically saying:
“I have the ability to give back, I WANT to give back, but I don’t feel like researching good charities and volunteering simply isn’t convenient for me.“
Is this post the kick in the butt that I need to get out there? Probably not. I assume most readers are like me – you have a passing thought that you could help more, but it’s easy to get swept away with life and push the thought aside. It doesn’t make us bad people!
And I know there are the mighty rich way more capable of helping than me. My small donation or time isn’t going to change the world the way they can. But I imagine when you actually help out, or see your dollars at work, you feel good about yourself and the world.
If any readers have good charities to give to, or stories of volunteering that are super positive (or negative), I want to hear them. Until then, I will continue feeling good about myself for considering giving back.
P.S. Despite my continued and growing bafflement with religion, I will say that the people who give back the most are often religious. They’re genuine about it and get true fulfillment from it. That experience is obviously possible without the idea of ‘serving god’, but maybe the lack of impending doom that awaits if I don’t help is why I’m lazy about it.