Liberation from the Obligation
As noted above, I would give at church because I was told to do so. No one stood over my shoulder and said "give", but growing up in a guilt-o-centric Catholic Church, you learn these things as being an obligation. However, in Scranton we had a new Bishop come along (Joseph Martino), and over time I realized that the Church he stood for wasn't the same Church I wanted to belong to; compassionate leadership has been replaced by a command-and-control leadership style that would make Chainsaw Al Dunlap proud. That liberated me from the obligation to give to the Catholic church because the institution that I supported all these years wasn't the same institution that I thought I knew. From that point forward, I knew I still wanted to give, but now I had to figure out who to give to.
When I realized that I wouldn't give to the Catholic Church any more, I had to decide who I wanted to support. Sure, I get a tax benefit from giving, but I really don't give that much that it has a tremendous impact on my financial health (or lack-thereof). I decided that there were three things that mattered to me relative to giving:
- Helping Children - Kids have it tough enough growing up these days; adding burdens to them because of things like diseases, etc. seems especially cruel. You are only a child once.
- Helping the Truly Less Fortunate - Some folks truly just need a hand up when they are down.
- Repaying Kindness - I'd like to think that I could give back to those institutions that have meant a lot to me over the years.
Here's what I decided to do...
- Helping Children - I try and give to St Jude Children's Research Hospital every month. I always found the story behind its founding (by the late entertainer Danny Thomas) to be compelling, but even more compelling is the work that they do. St Jude is also a highly rated charity.
- Helping the Truly Less Fortunate - I give to the Scranton Rescue Mission whenever I can. 75% of their donations go towards helping the needy, which is high percentage.
- Repaying Kindness - I was given a lot by my education at Penn State Harrisburg, in ways that are at times very difficult to describe. So I now make my single largest annual donation goes to the University.
Going forward, I'd like to move beyond simply giving money and do something with my time. I haven't figured that out yet, and I know that my time isn't the most easy commodity to acquire these days, but never the less I think it's also important to demonstrate with your hands (as well as your wallet) what is truly important in this world.