Up or down?
I was speaking at a conference last month, and was asked as part of my bio to list what I value. After some thinking - there is so much that I value - I listed service, for I believe that the greatest use of our time on this planet is to be of service to others.
For sure, we Americans agree on that. In 2021 we gave a record $471 billion to charities. This was a nominal record, and a consistent level when adjusted for inflation.
Some stats on our charitable activities:
Giving by individuals comprised just shy of 70% of total giving — hitting that level for the fourth time on record, and for the fourth consecutive year.
Those making less than $50,000 a year give more in relation to total income than those in all other income ranges except the highest earners.
In 2020, Moms aged 35-44 were the top volunteer group
While there is so much generosity that is being channeled in the direction of need, there are also very real needs not being addressed. The fact is that for all of our generosity, over the past 40 something years we have been disinvesting in our country, our communities and ourselves.
Everywhere around us is evidence that our giving is not universal and somewhat quixotic. We have crumbling infrastructure, falling school test scores, declining longevity and other health indicators in the US, and the continually growing gap between haves and have nots. I am sure that there are more that I have missed.
Given the level charity we provide, why aren’t we directing giving to have more societal impact? Somewhere along the line we seem to have become both more charitable and less generous. This extends to giving of ourselves.
There are many who need food, shelter, comfort and friendship. There are broken systems that need to be deconstructed or fixed. We have a moral obligation to assist others.
“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”
- Charles Dickens
The May 2021 American Perspectives Survey found that Americans report having fewer close friendships than they once did, talk to their friends less often, and rely less on their friends for personal support. (Part of that is Covid-19 related, but the trend preceded the pandemic.)
There is an epidemic of both aloneness and loneliness in the US.
Loneliness can be worse for you than half a pack of cigarettes.
This is the season of giving. We can all give and do more. Charity begins with a clear-eyed look in the mirror.
Let’s do more for others. Let’s actually build a better future for all, together.
“A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”
- Martin Luther King, Jr., April 4, 1967
Ho, ho, hope.
See you in 2023. I’ll post some pics along the way.
Thank you, Al, "There are many who need food, shelter, comfort and friendship. There are broken systems that need to be deconstructed or fixed. We have a moral obligation to assist others."
We need to all work together to take care of each other. It is time to do Better. We Can.