If you only started following this blog recently as a result of my NaNoWriMo posts, you might have missed the fact that I’ve been running a charity drive to raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention with the proceeds from my book as well as my Patreon page.1 Since that drive is coming to an end tomorrow, I’ll be posting some results from our drive on this blog by the end of the week. If you haven’t already bought something from one of the folks participating (or downloaded the free podcast that’s also part of this), I’d encourage you to go back to the introductory post linked earlier in the paragraph and see what you’d like to get for sake of donating.
That said, my primary intent for today’s post is not to push that charity drive. I wanted to take some time to talk about why charity matters to me. On one hand, my answer is a fairly stock answer. The idea of being able to do something to give something to those who don’t have the ability to get the things or services they need for themselves is appealing on a lot of levels. It’s a nice feeling when I can say that I’ve been able to use the money and resources I’ve been fortunate enough to have for myself to help those who don’t have the same privileges.
I also recognize that while there are charities such as food banks and Toys for Tots that provide specific types of resources directly to those who need them, not all charities deal in tangible goods in the same way. Services like those provided by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, UNICEF, the Special Olympics, or Planned Parenthood aren’t as easy to quantify because they aren’t cans of food or dollars going directly to someone in need. The services, however, are typically things that wouldn’t be accessible to those who need those services if those charities did not exist.
Even organizations that aren’t classified as charities can often do charitable work in their communities. This is particularly common in smaller communities. This reality is actually how I experienced my first brush with charity (at least the first one in my life that I can remember).
Some time around the age of 10 or so, Christmas time was nearly upon our household. My brother and I were living with my dad, my then-stepmom, and my then-stepbrothers. We’d been struggling with finances for a while at that point, and while I did have a bit of an understanding of how much of a struggle that we were having, I didn’t have a full grasp on exactly how much of a struggle it had been.
On Christmas Day, one of the local police cruisers showed up to our house. This wasn’t a particularly odd occurrence — between one of my former stepbrothers having a few run-ins with the law, the fact that my dad went to high school with the police chief, and that we lived in a very small town, we typically saw a cop in person at our house at least once a month. The visit on Christmas Day, however, featured two of the station’s officers bringing in boxes full of toys, which my stepmom attempted to sneakily maneuver into a back bedroom without anyone noticing. I saw it happen, but didn’t think much of it. Fifteen minutes later, the policemen left, and my brother and I opened our presents — the same presents that had been guided to the bedroom before, wrapped in plastic grocery bags.
Even after couple of years and a lot of larger financial issues that befell our family, I never quite made the connection that the fact that people who weren’t my family bringing my family Christmas presents for me and my brother was an act of charity. It wasn’t until I was a junior in high school when my then-girlfriend noticed that a family we knew was the recipient of the 7th annual charity toy donation from the local police station that I realized that not only was I once part of that same program, there was a good chance my family was one of the first recipients.
While I had participated in charity things my high school had done at various points up to that point, I started caring a lot more about doing stuff for others once I recognized how I had benefited from the help of others. The following spring and summer, I volunteered at the local therapeutic equestrian center in our area. I’ve been involved with various charity drives — both ones that I’ve set up and ones I haven’t over the years — benefiting various organizations including local Special Olympics groups, To Write Love On Her Arms, UNICEF, and the AFSP. I’ve also made an effort (once I had the means to do so) to donate some amount of money every year to charities that matter to me.
I wrote this post not as a plea for you to donate to a specific charity. If you want to take part in the charity drive I’m running with some other folks, that would be amazing. With that said, there are organizations that matter to you. And I do believe that there is benefit in trying to help those less fortunate than yourself — not just for their sake, but also for the greater good2 of society. There are people who will benefit this holiday season from the charity and kindness of others. My hope is that, if you are able to do so, you consider providing that help to someone who may be in need of it.