First of all I hate the word charity. To me a smidgen of pity always seems to be attached to that word charity. I have worked hard all my life to not pity anyone. I often fail, but still the act of engaging in it always makes me feel like I am doing a disservice to the one I aimed my pity at. It's as if pity denotes some kind of judgement or something. And I definitely work hard to rein in that wild beast. Another battle I lose with alarming regularity.
The second thing about charity is the fallacy that good intentions only are the driving force. Remove the tax deductions and I would guess that a serious percentage of all charitable donations would dry up. The cynic in me questions the kindness of strangers when it comes to prying money out of their pocket for "good causes".
My wife and I give money to causes we believe in. I do not have a clue how much and actually to who. She donates to some I don't know about. She knows who both of us donate to. She is the tax accountant after all. Giving money is a cop out if that is all someone feels they need to do to make a difference. I have a higher regard for the folks who give of their time and physical labor than the ones who just write a check.
To that end, I do not do as much as I should, but I do try. I have an old lady who obviously lives on the edge. She is a bottle collecter. Martha rides by on her beater 60's Huffy with huge plastic bags tied to it filled with the harvest she finds on the roads, behind walls and various businesses like mine. She is a proud woman. At least 60 years old and not a tooth in her head. Her bike is always in need. I supply her the work at below cost, but always charge something. She is too proud to take it for free.
Jason, my special needs friend who lives on assistance is always in need of bike work. He cannot drive so he rides. Again, he is too proud to take free, but I find ways to help and not denigrate his pride. He always asks me how much he owes. I come up with a figure that he can live with, but in no way is close to actual retail.
I often get trapped fixing some poor kid's beater for an hour and then charging them what they have in their pocket. Or if they are broke, tell em to buy me a coffee sometime.
I always insist that what I am doing is not free. In my mind, giving should be a two way street. That way both folks can feel ok with the transaction. Coming out on top is beside the point. It's about making them feel okay about receiving the help.
Bottom Line- All the hoopla over who is more giving by the amount of money they drop in the box at church or wherever is Bullsh!t. Giving money is easy. Giving of yourself is what really counts.