23 December 2015

A New Way Of Giving


From Danny (all pictures are from the streets of Peru and Bolivia)

I used to carry around an awful burden. It was the burden of needing to be “all-knowing" regarding who was and was not "worthy" or truly in need of my charity.

For understandable reasons, many of us are encouraged to be quite wary of giving money to people. You never know how they are going to use it. Do you want to give to someone who is just going to buy alcohol? Use drugs? Do you want to give to a scam artist, someone making a comfortable living by pretending to be sick or in need?

We've all heard rumors about how someone will use charity or seen the news reports about scam artists, and so our skepticism is understandable. We are now placed in the position of judging who will and who will not use our money wisely. This is something we are ultimately incapable of doing (actually knowing the intentions of another person) -- hence the awful burden.

The reality is, no matter how careful you try to be, chances are you're still going to occasionally give to someone who will use it to continue their self abuse or who is scamming you. You're also likely to misjudge someone and fail to give to those who are in true need and whom you would have been delighted to help if you knew perfectly the sincerity of their situation and need.

3 Ways To Approach The Problem

Faced with that reality of sure failure, you have 3 options or ways at looking at the responsibility to give:
  1. Continue trying to discern (and continue failing miserably)
  2. Stop giving to anyone directly and only give to charities you know support the needy (thus passing the burden of deciding who is in need of charity to someone else)
  3. Take yourself out of the position of all-knowing judge and just give to all who ask of you if you have something to give 
I used to float between 1 and 2. It felt most responsible to me at the time. I easily rationalized that since I already gave 10% or more of my income to my church, that donation sufficiently relieved me of the burden of helping everyone else. Besides, I thought, surely there are people in my church or other organizations I give to that are more than capable of assessing who really is or is not in need. Let them, with all their expertise, figure that out for me.

If I saw someone in need, I tried to decide if I felt the need was sincere and if I could spare a little more. Though I have to admit, due to my own faults, I often passed up opportunities thinking I was already doing all that could be reasonably expected of someone. I'm ashamed to admit the thought actually occurred to me that the needy human being should rely on someone else who wasn't already giving as much as I was.


Uneasiness And A Need To Shift

Ultimately, options 1 and 2 were not very fulfilling. When we allow all of our charitable givings to be administered by someone else or some institution, we are removed from the actual experience of compassion, human connection, and meeting the needs of those RIGHT IN FRONT OF US. I wasn’t sure how to resolve that problem until I considered what before seemed inconsiderable and irresponsible: option number 3.

That shift has been one of the most rewarding changes of my life. I hope to explain to you why, and what shifts in thinking I’ve had to undergo to make it such an enriching and beautiful experience.



While Walking The Streets Of Puno On The Shores Of Lake Titicaca

To explain, I'll need to share the experience that inspired this post. Mara and I were walking the streets of Puno, Peru, and came across a few people in need who we were committed to helping. One man in particular sticks out in my mind. On the discerning/"all-knowing" end of things, this one was a bit easier to judge the severity of need. His eyes were cloudy, perhaps with cataracts. He was seated on the ground in a way that made me suspect his legs were deformed in some way. He had one hand that was clearly misshapen. With his other hand he played a tune without melody on his harmonica.

I knelt down to speak with him and he stopped playing his music. I looked in his eyes and asked his name. He returned my gaze, smiled a toothless grin and said “Santiago". I smiled back and said it was nice to meet him. My name is Danny, and this is my wife Mara. I thanked him for his music, gave him some change, and wished him a wonderful evening. He put his harmonica down, extended his good hand to shake mine and offer the biggest smile and gratitude. He then asked my wife's name and extended his hand to her, and thanked her, shaking her hand for what could have seemed like an uncomfortable amount of time, all while thanking and blessing us while Mara replied mucho gusto.

When he finally let go, he continued smiling and waving and thanking. We returned his blessings and said farewell friend. When we made it into the next small textile store I couldn't help but weep.



The Importance Of Seeing A Human Being

Imagine how many people pass by this man each day without even looking or acknowledging his existence. Imagine the others who perhaps acknowledge him but move on uncomfortably. Imagine again the numbers that are kind enough and are able to give money or support of some kind, but do so by dropping the coins in a can and moving on, almost as if he is a vending machine or some other inanimate object. How many stop to see the human being in front of them? A human being who is in the terrible position of relying daily on the kindness of others for sustenance? Based on his response to this brief but sincere exchange, my guess is not many.



It’s Not Money That You’re Giving


Stop thinking that what you are giving is money. If you think that, then you are forever going to be playing the same old game of judgment and discerning that you are sure to fail at.

Realize what you are actually giving is your presence.

You are giving them the time of day to look into their eyes, show them you see their humanity, ask their name, shake their hand. To acknowledge them and share a moment together, to look at them as an equal whose eyes should be met, whose name should be heard.

Presence is what you are giving, and it is what they need.



Not All Want To Receive Presence, Or Know How

It is true, some of those who are out to deceive you, or intend to use your charity to feed addiction and abuse, may not be capable of sharing that moment with you, of returning your presence. But will you as a human being be any worse off for trying to offer it?

And for the person who will use your money to feed addiction, can you imagine what it just might mean to them to be viewed as a human being and not a label like "junkie" or "alcoholic"? Perhaps that is the very thing, the very interaction, that will bring change to their life. Or maybe it won't be that one, but the accumulation of many such interactions over time, if only more of us were capable of doing that. I know the book/movie/musical is fictional, but isn't that what Les Miserables is about? Isn't that how it all begins? Lives are changed when one soul is willing to actually look at another that everyone else ignores or avoids, and is willing to call him brother or sister. This is where the universal story of personal redemption begins.

More recent studies show that perhaps the biggest factor in addiction isn't the chemical process at all, but the isolation from others and lack of connection. So quit worrying as much about if you are feeding an addiction. Think more about the capacity to offer them the thing that is most missing - Connection, Love, Humanity, Presence. And if it costs you a dollar or five in order to give them this more important gift, so be it. I promise you it will be worth it, if not to them in the moment, it will be to you as you learn how to see others through different eyes.

And you never know -- you just might have an experience like we did with Santiago (and a few others during our travels) that causes you to weep because you're so humbled by the Joy that comes over you and them when Presence is shared and humanity is acknowledged.



Isn't This What The Holiday Season And Christmas Is All About?


Whether you think Jesus is the Son of God, a great teacher, or a myth, his life is still an example of exactly this -- of giving Presence to those who the rest of society ignored, shamed, rejected, and judged. In fact, sometimes when some came seeking a meal, he gave it to them, but made sure to explain to them that the more valuable thing he had to offer them was connection, love, and relationship. So it should be with the rest of us.

When it comes to giving to organizations, I'm very much in favor of understanding how they will use the funds (administration costs vs. actual charity) and how they will help those in need. I try to be very discerning in such cases, and use the data available to figure out the best place to give. But when it comes to human beings right in front of you with their hand out, there is often no real data available. And it wouldn't matter if there was. Because my chief goal isn't to give money anyway, but to give Love and Presence and human to human Compassion.



Sending Love

May each of you have a wonderful Christmas or Hanukkah or Holiday Season. As you go about your busy activities and the hustle bustle - may you find someone in need not only of money or presents, but of your Love and Presence. And may you find the few moments and vulnerability it takes to truly give it to them.

Do you also do something like this? Do you feel intimidated at the thought of it? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment section, as well as any of your practices or experiences that have made giving more meaningful for you and your family. 

42 comments:

  1. thanks danny. this was beautifully written; i was actually just thinking today that i need to do more. i feel like this post was the answer i'm looking for :)

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    1. I saw the name and hoped this was the Emily I knew....then I followed the picture and YEP! So glad this resonated with you. Hope you and Peter and the family are doing well.

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    2. Wait what? You guys know each other? Through the blog or in real life? I love these connections. :)

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    3. Real life - went to high school together, and she married a friend of mine that lived just a block or two away. :)

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    4. Peter and my husband went to dental school together in NYC and then we overlapped with them during our time in San Antonio as well. Good peeps.

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  2. Dear Danny,

    I loved this post - it is something I think about often. I live in a small city called Bath in the UK where there is a growing homeless community. Particularly at this time of year when the number of tourists and visitors increase, as do the number of homeless people.

    I have always felt such a strong urge to help these people but did not feel that money was the answer - many of them have drug and alcohol issues in Bath. My desire to help led me to volunteer at the 'soup run' which is organised every evening. I am now on the rota and absolutely love this experience. My favourite part is serving the hot food and sandwiches.

    Just this morning I received an email from the organiser with an attachment. The attachment was a card that one of the gentlemen we serve had designed using the (free access) library computers. How wonderful?! I'm so happy that this man felt our love and that he wanted to wish US a Merry Christmas. I am also so happy that he had a group of people to send a Christmas card to this year.

    Another gentleman is always engrossed in a book, he seems to LOVE reading. A few weeks ago I picked up a book from a charity shop for him and plan on giving it to him the next time I see him around.

    As you have figured out yourself, it isn’t about money. It is the love and acknowledgement that can make a huge different in someones day. It is so easy to do, yet so so rewarding!

    I hope you and Mara have a great Christmas.

    X

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    1. I love this SO much, thank you for sharing! What a great way to get more involved on a personal level!

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  3. Oh, ouch. As I read on I felt getting more and more defensive. This is a sure sign I have some work to do in that area.
    You have written about a matter I did not have in my focus at all. So I sincerely thank you for your words.
    A very happy holiday to Mara and you.

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    1. Anne, I totally know the feeling. I still remember some of my initial reactions when I read something that challenged my former approach...and defensive is definitely a good word to use. But thanks for reading all the way through and admitting, as I still must, that you (and I) still have work to do.

      But it is something I want to do. Mara and I have had so many experiences approaching things this way that not only would we not turn back, but we are looking at how we can expand our minds and our hearts and how we can give more.

      Much love!

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  4. This was beautiful! Thank you Danny. I've been moving more toward three, but without allowing for real connection, it was more the vending machine type giving. It never sat well, but I was still glad I could give. Now I have more specific things I should start working on. Thanks for that and Merry Christmas!

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    1. Thanks Eden. Glad you've already been moving there...but the connection is where all the joy is found! Have fun putting it into practice and learning how to get creative and sincere in expressing that connection.

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  5. Danny, I haven't talked to you in forever, but I appreciate your thoughts. I've had many similar thoughts, but the problem I run into is that there are an overwhelming number of people in need, and my resources are so limited. I guess the "personal policy" I've come up with is to help those I know and can have a deeper impact. "Needy" doesn't apply to just beggars on the street. What about the next-door neighbor that is barely getting by? What about the family I home teach that is in desperate need of friendship and fellowship? I don't want to judge, but I just can't give to everyone that surrounds me; maybe that's something I need to work on. I guess I feel "justified" in knowing the beggar sitting on South Temple in downtown SLC has other resources and organizations that can more effectively help them. My time and money is better spent--for me--by giving to those I know personally, where a little bit makes a big--and deep--difference.

    I served my mission in the Philippines, and my heart aches more for people there--or in Peru or any other number of countries. I don't have the privilege like you to visit many of these countries, but I'd be more inclined to give to a beggar there, knowing that the infrastructure and support system in non-existent in those areas of the world.

    Maybe I'm overthinking it, but with limited resources I feel "judging" how to allocate those resources has to happen regardless. But to your higher point, I need to do better at offering kindness and friendship to people, regardless of whether or not I have money or food to offer.

    I appreciate your heartfelt and honest thoughts!

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    1. Hey Joe, I really appreciate your thoughts, and I totally understand the need to prioritize. I think you're perspective is wonderful, and agree that helping those around you, a neighbor, a family member, or whoever else has a big impact.

      I realize it may not be the focus of the article, but option number 3 includes the phrase "if you have something to give". I recognize that often our responsibilities to family and to loved ones leaves very little room for anything else.

      The emphasis of the article remains true to me whether or not you have extra change to spare. We have to stop thinking about money being the thing given or withheld....or else we're always in a losing battle.

      If we decide that we have nothing to give in monetary terms, there is still the capacity to give time, presence, compassion, attention.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and for allowing that key point to be your take away.

      Out of curiosity, how do we know each other? A first name Joe doesn't immediately bring to mind who is on the other end of the comment. Best - Danny

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  6. Thanks for this post. Such great reminders to see the humanity in people and to give connection and love and presence and not just money. I have a question for you, Danny. What are your thoughts on tithing? In our LDS faith, we are commanded to give 10% and our standing in the church depends on it. However, not all funds are given to the needy and we have no control as to how they are used. It also removes us as individuals from the very thing your post talks about. I'd love to hear your thoughts if you'd be willing to share.

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    1. I would also like to hear your thoughts on this, Danny & Mara. I was just telling my husband the other day how I wish the commandment to give 10% would allow us to chose the charities and people we give too. I know the church does a lot of good with the donations, but I think there are also a lot missed opportunities. Furthermore, i struggle to come to peace on how my donations may be used, as I don't agree with some of the financial investments and decisions made by the church. How do you come to peace with this?

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    2. I'll try and comment more at another time, but somebody else on Facebook shared this article in response to my post - http://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewcave/2014/06/23/giving-to-your-church-doesnt-count-jon-huntsman-snr-and-twitters-biz-stone-on-new-philanthropy/

      I'd read it some time ago and loved it, and was grateful for the reminder. It's from Jon Huntsman Sr. Here's the key quote takeaway that hit home the most for me -

      “My philanthropy is not borne out of my faith,” he says. “They require 10% tithing. I don’t consider that to be philanthropy and I don’t consider it to be part of my philanthropic giving. I consider it as club dues.

      “People who put money in the church basket and people who go to church and pay the pastor: that isn’t real philanthropy, that’s just like you belong to a country club. You pay your dues to belong to that church so you pay your tithing or whatever it is. I’ve never added that into my philanthropy in any way because I just think it’s a part of a person’s life.”

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    3. This isn't really an answer to your questions, but I coincidentally read this article right before this post, and it was so inspiring to me: http://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewcave/2014/06/23/giving-to-your-church-doesnt-count-jon-huntsman-snr-and-twitters-biz-stone-on-new-philanthropy/

      I liked Huntsman's perspective that donating to a church doesn't count as charity - it's part of the "club fee", and then he chooses other places to donate additional money. At this point in his life, he has a ton of money, but the most touching aspect of this was when he mentioned giving $50 each month out of his total $320 a month to a family more in need than him, and then he paid tithing as well. He now has donated 80% of his income not including tithing. I think the principle behind it is always looking for people who are in worse condition than you. It helps keep us gracious and generous. Paying tithing should not be the only way you are helping out people around you, just as going to church is not the only time you are kind to people. When you look at it that way, you can pay your tithing, not worry about it, and additionally support - even if it's just a dollar - other charities of your choosing. In any way, you can always do what Danny is suggesting, which is giving people the gift of acknowledgment and helping them feel valued.

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  7. Shoot. I don't know how I missed it in the post, but you did address the tithing issue to some extent in the post so sorry for missing it. But I agree with the commenter above. I, too, wish I could have more say over where my charitable contributions go as well as more personal involvement. I also have a hard time making peace with the fact that my "worthiness" is contingent upon tithing. But that may be another issue altogether:)

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  8. Stunning and has my body mind and heart saying "yes" in a big way. Thank you for this reminder!

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    1. I love it when the body cries out like that!

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  9. Hi Danny,

    Thank you for your post. It is always difficult to distinguish where you are needed most, but this is a wonderful reminder that we can all contribute in a small way.

    I have to comment on the article you linked to on Huffington Post regarding addiction. It is extremely difficult to read without feeling anger. Growing up surrounded by people affected by addiction, the idea that addiction can be prevented or cured by having human connection goes against some core teachings in Al-Anon family therapy and almost implies the burden, for lack of a better word, is on the friends and family. Perhaps that human connection is helpful, but a small part of the process of recovery.

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    1. Amy, thanks for the comment. I can see why you would take issue with the article I linked to based on your experience. I think both you and the article can be correct. You are correct in that the burden cannot simply rest on the friends and family of individuals who struggle with addiction. Addiction certainly is a very complicated issue with many moving parts, and all the human connection in the world won't stop some people from continuing down a self destructive path. But it does play an important role in the full restoration of a human being, of those human beings who decide they are ready for recovery and to receive the love they've often ignored or abused for so long.

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  10. simply put , but made a world of difference to me

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    1. Sally, thanks for sharing. And what a joy to be able to pass it on to someone so young....perhaps she can grow up without some of the cultural stigmas and internal blocks to helping others like I did.

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  12. Hi Danny,

    Thank you for this post; so much of it resonated with me. Years ago, I was a graduate student at an institution which had a street filled with shops for the undergraduate populous. Along that street there were a number of homeless, both teenagers who were runaways and those who struggled with addiction. Both populations pan-handled on a daily basis. After a few less than pleasant episodes with offering money, I made a decision to not gift money, but food instead. Everyday when I would pack my lunch, I made sure to include some extra fruit and a sandwich. On my way into lab, when I encountered the pan-handlers, I informed them I had no cash on my person (which was true), but I had some fruit or a sandwich that I was more than happy to give them.

    You talk about the human connection and not judging. The beauty of offering food was the connection always came when the offer was accepted. Truthfully it was rare that those struggling with addictions accepted this offer, but every teenager I encountered did and those moments of talking with them inspired me in so many ways.

    I still struggle with giving money for this reason. There's too much worry behind it and many who are tempted to cheat are drawn to it. But through service to my community, I find that human connection.

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    1. Hey Cristy! I loved your solution and I happen to think it is a great one. I understand that there are different situations for everyone, and I'm happy you found something that worked for you.

      Surprisingly, in NYC, I didn't experience a ton of regular pan-handling. Those who were asking usually seemed like they needed it, so I never had too much conflict giving cash there. The same is true here in Ecuador. I've seen very few "regulars", but I see a lot of older women especially, and never had to hesitate giving cash to them, or helping them obtain a meal (or giving them the food I was taking home for myself).

      Were I in a situation like you described, I probably would have done something very similar.

      Whatever my solution is....it always involves finding a way to give, and pushing myself to do it beyond my comfort zone, and making sure that it involves connection of some kind.

      Thanks again for sharing, I love the insights and experience.

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  13. Hi Danny,

    Wonderful post as always.

    My perspective is that even if someone is going to use my money to spend on feeding an addiction I have no right to judge their choices. My job in this world is simply to be love and live and let others live. To put stipulations on how the money I give is to be used is not my job. Ultimately once it passes my hands it is theirs to do with as they will.

    I also totally agree with you that presence is the most important gift of all.

    Merry Christmas to you and Mara x

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  14. I LOVE this.

    I have so often that that when I get a gift from someone, it's not the gift..it's the fact that they thought of me. Bought the gift. Wrapped it. Mailed it. All these little acts of persistence and acknowledgment of ME...that is what gives me that feeling that I can only be described as someone brushing my hair. Ladies, you know what I'm talking about...it's just a feeling that makes you feel so good, but is so peaceful at the same time you could almost go to sleep. Thank you for sharing your insights on ideas 1 + 2 and pushing through to 3...that really does make all the difference. Merry Christmas you guys.

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    1. Also Danny--slightly off topic, but sorta on...did you read the book Chasing the Scream by the same author of the article you linked to about drugs? It really opened my eyes and changed the way I think about drugs, drug users and the war on drugs as a whole. Very eye opening...things are never really what we think they are.

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  15. This was perfect. I have felt this shift from 2-3 over the past few years and that is what I want to show to my kids. A few years back during my husbands residency we would frequently see people that he had worked on in the ER on the street. My husband has always just had this insight and ability to communicate with people that I really admire. One day as we were driving and passed a homeless man he knew he paused and then said something I will never forget and that totally changed my perspective. He said, "It's amazing how many of them just want to be seen. To be treated like and seen as a human being with feelings and and a story and not like some "other"." Anyway, what you wrote about connection reminded me of that experience.

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  16. Lots of good thoughts in this post, and I'm happy to read that you are generous with yourself and your resources during your time on Earth.

    I grew up doing lots of volunteer work (soup kitchens, Special Olympics coaching, other face-to-face tasks), so I think much of my connecting comes through that form of giving.

    As to money, I mostly give it to organizations that I believe are addressing issues I care about most at a structural and systemic level. For example, I'd rather my money go toward advocating for good domestic violence laws and training judges about how to handle the issue than to maybe help one person I meet in passing. Or, I'd rather give toward a holistic program that helps people turn their lives around rather than helping 1 person get food for 1 meal.

    That said, sometimes I see a person or an animal that needs help in that moment and something tugs on my heartstrings, and I just do it without all the over-analysis.

    I've also thought about how bias enters into my giving if I'm only giving to those who ask. For example, I've spent time in countries where women aren't allowed to be in public unaccompanied, so they couldn't beg even if they needed it. Even in the US, most beggers seem to be men, in part because the streets are less safe for women and women must fear being raped. That's another reason I often give my funds to trusted organizations - they can reach a more representative group than just those who a culture empowers to ask directly for what they need. They can also reach those who can't advocate for themselves, like young children.

    Of everything you wrote, I find the "if you have something to give" part to the most provocative and interesting. All Americans should think about this more, because almost all of us always have more to give. Just about every American has so much luxury in our lives (yes, even lower income Americans) - meals out, electronics, more clothing than we need, washing machines, more living space than necessary, etc. It's interesting to think about what we consume and all of the "wants" we have in our lives versus how much we give. I think 99% of Americans (myself included) can give more than they do if they wanted to. It's also worth reflecting on our indulgences. For example, I've never stayed in a fancy hotel or had a high-end meal out in a poor country, because it feels wrong to spend more on 1 night's hotel or 1 meal than many local residents earn in 3 months, 6 months or a year. So many thoughts all jumbled together!

    Let's all be more generous. Thank you.

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    1. Agreed, we can all give much more. Thanks for sharing your passion for helping. I am always trying to push myself to be much more generous than what I previously thought was reasonable. I would rather not set a limit on what should or shouldn't...but continue to push in ways that are almost uncomfortable and figure out how to make it work.

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  17. Hello Danny, I have made this shift ten years ago when I did a research with the homeless and it became clear to me that they needed presence and material help. In the Mormon community people don't drink, but it has always shocked me that people who spend a lot of the money they earn (by work or by family help) drinking will be so fast to judge people in need who also drink or smoke. I had a college friend (who used to smoke pot) that once asked me to not give money to a homeless who smoked pot! And I answered: " I am more willing to not offer a gift to my friends who smoke pot than to deny a homeless help". It was so unbelievable to me! But there is only one thing that I wanted to discuss here - when we give to organisations, we are always seeing how much it really goes to charity and we should. On the other hand, I think most people do not realize that most small organizations have a staff that works more hours than they should because of the need of the needy ones, the lack of staff and they are so underpaid! Good small organisations loose very good people everyday because they can't afford to pay a correct salary (since no one wants their money spent on the organizations!). Good people have to live organizations they love because they have to pay rent, mortgages, school fees, health fees. They would like to be able to offer their kids a vacation and small and sometimes medium organizations cannot afford it. My father is one who has always worked in small organizations. He has been working since he is 14, the last 35 years he has been devouted to a small organisation. He has not being paid ANY salary 15 years through this 35 years for lack of money of the organization, although he works weeks and weekends, late hours and barely has vacation (because he is so needed). He is 70 now, he is not retired because he cannot afford to be retired and he is getting ill. After a long life of selfless giving, he will be in need in his elderly ages because his organisation couldn't afford to pay him correctly. He had a choice to find another job or continue, he chose to continue, but it is a tough call...And I feel horrible that I cannot help him financially yet and that societies just ignores all he has done to help...

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    1. Thanks for sharing Anon. You share a sad reality facing many who devote their lives to the care of others who receive little in return. Wish you and your father well.

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  18. Hi Danny! Thank you for this post! It came at such a perfect time! You are always so generous to respond to comments and I am so grateful for that. I have been thinking about this a lot. I recently decided that I wanted to spend time serving those in mental hospitals but it's hard for me because I want to do more than I am able. I want to fix it! Do you ever run into that problem? Also, I have noticed that I often withhold charity from those close to me. For me, they are the hardest to love and serve and have connection with. Therr are so many people in My life and I don't have the funds or the rine to show them the love I want to... I also judge whether they are worthy or not:( I would love to hear how you make sure to care for those close to you!

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    1. As another reader pointed out above, there is a limit to what can be given. We all have responsibilities that must be fulfilled, and we cannot simply give all that we have. I also wish I was able to do more. To be honest, some of the cities we walked through, there were more people that seemed to be in true need than I would have been able to assist.

      I just try to do my best. And I have to accept that my best is my best, and that over time I hope my best will be better.

      To be honest, Mara and I spent a good portion of our travel talking about the "more" that we'd like to do if we had more resources and could leverage more people to the cause. This children's orphanage has really put a fire under us to figure out a way to be able to give much more.

      That means we also spent time planning what it would mean for us to be more successful in our endeavors so that we can do that. We're making plans not just for our own future and success, but specifically making it so that we can do more to give back.

      When you feel the call to help, I guess it's best to jump in where you can at the moment, and use experience to inform you how you can improve over time. I don't think we'll be able to fix everything this orphanage needs right now....and I can't get down about that. Just do what can be done and rejoice that I was able to do anything at all.

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    2. As for withholding charity from those who are closest, I suppose it is human nature. It is one thing to give to someone when you know there are no expectations of the favor being returned, or no chance to see whether or not things were used wisely, or if some positive change was put into place. Giving to strangers, in that sense, is easier....because it really is with no strings attached.

      Giving to those who are close, on the other hand, comes with all sorts of expectations, disappointments, judging, hanging the charity over heads for extended periods of time, etc. It's just natural. Our proximity to others means it's harder to truly give simply for the sake of giving....our closeness means we are nearly incapable of giving with the same attitude we would give to a stranger. That's probably a weakness on our own part, and it needs to be fixed.

      I suppose the answer, to me, is learning how to give just as freely. Were you to help someone close to you, when you give make sure they know there are no strings attached. Let them know this is because you love them, nothing else. Of course, because of proximity, boundaries might need to be set as well to prevent abuse of generosity. Were you to give once, twice, or 3 times and someone consistently abused what you gave, the next time you might have to say "I can't keep doing this, for my sake and for yours. I'm not mad at you, I don't love you less, but I also can't be irresponsible in this way. However, I'm more than willing to help you in a way that isn't monetary. If you want to talk, I'm here to listen without judgement, etc."

      Anyway, not necessarily what you were asking, but it was the scenario that came to mind. Hope what I wrote is helpful in some way.

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  19. This post was just beautiful. Thank you for being open and willing to share your experience on this complicated topic of giving. Although, after reading your post, it all seems very SIMPLE now. Thank you for the clarity. It means more than you can ever know. A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you both!

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  20. I have been struggling with this ever since moving to Phoenix where the climate means more homeless than I experienced in the Midwest. I struggle also with our culture of stranger-danger. As a women in my low twenties I have to be careful. Unfortunately this attitude makes me very uncomfortable giving charity to real people. It is so much easier to give through charities. I am going to fight this unease and concentrate on the humanity of the person. How beautiful that I could help give someone a bit of their humanity back. Thank you so much for your perspective. How true that these people need our presence and love. Now I have to go back and read all your responses to comments.(which are gold) Please never stop blogging Mara and Danny! I have grown so much in the years of reading your blog and putting into practice your always stellar advice.

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  21. Thank you for the compassionate you showed in your post to those who are battling addiction. They are suffering and need to hear the message that hope and recovery are possible. Sometimes, a simple act of kindness will be what is needed to restore them and their families.

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