A message from CharityWatch Executive Director, Laurie
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that suffering exists
on a spectrum. However each of us measures success and stability in our lives —
financial wealth, good health, a strong support system of family and friends, mobility,
prolific creativity, the freedom that comes from having access to opportunity
and choices — this year we have all been forced to sacrifice and to adapt,
sometimes in uncomfortable and unfamiliar ways. In this sense, suffering has
revealed itself as a great equalizer. None of us has escaped unscathed. There
is a powerful lesson in this.
Many of us are socialized to think about giving in a binary
way. We accept that there are haves and have-nots—those who give and others who
receive. In truth, no one has cornered the market on need or generosity. We are
each simultaneously capable of giving and receiving in different ways in any
given moment. Need is also not a fixed state of being. It’s contextual. As our life
circumstances change, so do our resources. At some points in life we have more
time than money, and in others, more money than time. The constant is that we
always have something of value to contribute to make the world a better place. Reflecting
on those moments when someone helped us through a difficult time, we can choose
to pay it forward by helping a friend or a stranger, by donating to charity, by
volunteering our time, or by lending an attentive ear to a lonely soul in need
of our company.
This year has been tough for everyone. But we can’t make
next year a better one without taking concrete action. And we won’t take action
unless we maintain hope for the future. We may lose hope and fail to act when:
- We become overwhelmed by the infinite needs we observe
around us. Like a deer in headlights, we can become frozen by indecision.
- A problem seems too large or unwieldy relative to our
ability to make an impact. What we have to offer feels equivalent to using a
bucket to pitch water out of a sinking ship.
- We assume that those with more resources have both the means
and the will to address all of society’s unmet needs. If we don’t help, someone
In these uncertain times, it’s understandable that some of
us may feel powerless to change our collective circumstances for the better. This
is why it’s so important to be mindful of how our thoughts shape our words, and
how our words, in turn, shape our actions. Those who think about giving as a collective
practice within a community, rather than as a series of individual
transactions, can feel a stronger sense of connection to our shared humanity.
Remember that no one person can solve all the world’s ills
alone. A foundation or wealthy individual may have the necessary resources to
tackle a large problem at its root cause. In the meantime, those who are cold
still need shelter, those who are hungry still need food, and those who are
lonely still need the gift of our time.
Each of us can proactively reflect on how we are best suited
to help according to our individual resources and abilities. Find your niche
and commit to the practice of giving thoughtfully, generously, and
consistently. You have the power and the resources to improve another person’s
life. The year 2020 will soon be in the rearview mirror. Hope for the future is
a self-fulfilling prophecy when we allow it to inspire concrete acts of giving.
It starts with you.