Back when money came in more easily, and we didn't yet suspect it wouldn't do so forever, I'd make out $20.00 checks for almost any charity who asked. Hungry people, hungry animals, myriad diseases, social political groups and causes, arts...
By so doing, I caused the requests to multiply wildly, letters bred and spawned. Free unwanted address labels, calendars, notepads, book bags, blankets, key chains, and plush toys gushed in through the mailbox. Strangers called.
Then my father-in-law's mail was forwarded here after his death. Apparently he'd contributed to a whole slew of different charities and causes who missed him desperately and wrote often. The accumulating waste was obscene, forcing us to wonder if any donated monies went to anything besides the proliferation of glossy pictures of misery and heartbreaking pleas for help.
The need was clearly real, but was the cure a scam?
I asked around. One friend said she shoved all her requests in a drawer and sorted through once a year. Some people said they picked one charity each year and made as big a contribution as possible in hope of making some actual difference. Others, like me, were spotty and unfocused, not knowing if we'd donated six times to AIDS and never to ASPCA, or Doctors Without Borders, or Habitat for Humanity, or.... A friend in the fundraising business, turned me on to a link that evaluated charities on effectiveness and skim-levels...
Then our income-flow slowed to a trickle and the subject of sharing more than a few bucks here and there with the neighborhood homeless, became moot.
So, since we no longer had money to give, I decided to give time instead. I signed on for the next couple years for random volunteer work, working with kids, working with books, working with kids and books, serving soup, going to various meetings.
Some of it depressed the hell out of me, and left me limp on the couch, too dispirited to write.
Some of it was so boring it left me limp on the couch, too numb and brain-dead to write.
Some involved such long hours in hideous traffic that by the time I got home, I could do nothing but sprawl... you guessed it, limp on the couch.
Now it is a new year. Time to reevaluate and hatch the next plan. But I am stumped. What are we to do with the crushing need around us? How can we do some good to justify our existence, but not pay so dearly that we resent it and seethe? What do other people do?????? What do you do?
P.S. If you read this far thinking I'd have answers, I apologize for leading you astray.