Let me ask you a question. What if you had to donate €5 of your money, would you give it to Oxfam, which is currently collecting money for the people in East Africa who are suffering from the worst food crisis in decades, or would you give the money to a street musician?
I could be wrong but my guess is that at least 8/10 people would choose Oxfam because most people feel more sorry or sympathy for a hungry child in Africa than for a street musician.
We often donate because we feel sorry
Have you ever noticed how organizations like Oxfam, but also others, attract donations? Usually by making you feel sorry or uncomfortable about a situation. The same with beggars on the street. People give them money because they feel sorry for the person, especially when they miss a limb or are accompanied by a small child.
But, why is it exactly that you feel sorry? Don’t they create their own reality too?
Please allow me to share a little story with you.
Many years ago, when I was in high school , we went on a field trip to Amsterdam. I had never been to Amsterdam, or any big city for that matter, and for the first time in my life I was confronted with a beggar. He asked me for one guilder (€0,45) so he could buy some food. I felt very sorry for the guy, who looked like he had been in the gutter for days, so I gave him not one but two guilders. He thanked me and went his way.
I felt very good about myself. Hadn’t I just helped a poor human being to get something to eat? Willingly sharing a considerable part of my own pocket money? Talking about charity in action!
It was a couple of hours later that I bumped into the same beggar again. This time he not only looked different, e.g. much better clothing, but he actually laughed at me, in a mocking sort of way. He obviously recognized me as the generous boy from the country side. I demanded my money back because he clearly didn’t need it. This made him laugh even more and he walked away. I felt very stupid, but I had learned an important lesson…
Belief systems and donating money
When we think about it, donating money also has a lot to do with certain deeply rooted belief systems in our western (Christian) culture. We all grew up with the belief that giving our money away to others, the needy but also to the church for example, is good; a kind of credit when you later have to negotiate your entry into heaven.
But, is providing aid always helping others as we like to think? You may be surpirsed about some of the thoughts and observations in this BBC article about food aid to Africa: Can aid do more harm than good?
Please, take a minute here to reflect on your own beliefs when it comes to charity and donating money. Why do you feel that giving away your money is a good and honorable thing to do? Who taught you this? Or, is this based upon your own experience, because it makes you feel good? Why does it make you feel good? And, does it really help others? Aren’t you taking away an incentive (or the contrast as Abraham would say) for people to change their own situation for the better?
Donating out of appreciation
This whole discussion about donating money arose last Monday when I went out for lunch with some colleagues and gave €2 to the street musician who was playing his accordion next to where we sat. My colleagues found it a waste of money. Why didn’t I give the money to someone who really needed it; like the people in Africa?
My answer was simple. I very much enjoyed the music he was playing and in return, out of appreciation and gratitude, I gave him some money.
How do you feel about this? Instead of giving money when you feel bad, pity or guilt about something, or because of some belief system that others invented for you, why not give your money only in those situations when you feel appreciation? What feels more aligned with Source or your higher self…?
Think of this the next time you are asked to donate money for some cause, but also when you visit a website, or come across an organization or person who offers you information, a free product or service that you found beneficial or joyful, whatever it is…
If you like to comment on this post or share your experiences, please feel free to use the comment box.