I was at a meeting with friends (some young and some old) the other day and an elderly friend was talking about getting involved both time-wise and financially with a local cause. He was extremely passionate about the project and had clearly been in a number of meetings recently about this project. It appeared he was going to commit some great time and financial resources to this endeavor.
This man is also quite wealthy by the standards of our community, and he does have time on his hands as he is retired from a lucrative business that he owned with another friend.
Can you guess the Cause? What he was so passionate about?
Building a Park.
In a Small Town in Northern CA.
Now don’t get me wrong, as I am one of the biggest fans of our local county needing parks. We hardly have anything. My children need parks. We need places to be outside.
End of Story.
My simple question however, is always: What is my obligation to have an informed, and deliberately chosen, perspective on what I do with my time and money?
Do I really want to build parks? Do I really want to support animal rights? Do I really want help people get clean water? These are all great questions…
So, “what would make a great answer?”… is my next question.
In the grand scheme of things, a park in a small county in Northern CA seems to me to be missing a little perspective, if that is what you are committing a chunk of time and money towards in retirement.
The Status Quo
In order to understand the status quo, we must first talk about how people give money typically. Or, how they come to care about causes typically.
I have been this typical person in the past, and the way it works is simple.
- Usually, someone invites you to a fundraiser that they are hosting/involved-in and then you attend
- You write a check. You might even be asked to be on the board or to help with the next fundraiser, or commit your time otherwise.
- You are now “involved” wth this organization.
- You defend their agenda and the stuff they do publicly.
- Wake up at 60 and realize that you have helped these causes.
Notice, in that sequence that there is not a deliberate choice to figure out ethically what you are passionate about. Like many other things in life, we wake up at 60 someday and here we are helping Parks and Rec departments, The Local Hospital, The local Search and Rescue Foundation, and the Local Animal Shelter.
Hear me clearly…there is nothing wrong with donating time or money to these things. These are noble pursuits and do need helpers, donors, and volunteers.
However, what gets missed in this typical journey is the serious lack of intent by anybody who has gotten swept up into it. We seem to have a void in our lives that tells us that we must help. The problem is that this doesn’t guarantee that we see these things as the ultimate problems in life. Or, we don’t see them as actually the most seriously unjust things in the world.
Parkinson and His Law
It is well known that something will fill any time we have left over. Or, according to Parkinson’s Law, there is an amount of time and work that will end up being equal if we don’t control our work output or consciously be deliberate in what we are up to.
So here is the question. Why do we help things that we may later seem to not actually care about nor consider actual moral problems to be worth fixing?
Answer: It is because something will always fill the void.
It is because no one (as far as I know) in their 20’s sits down and actually asks the following question:
“What are the Largest Injustices in the World?”
I assume, like me, that if you understood the largest injustices that you would do something to fix them.
I assume you would come to be passionate about them.
Or, at least that you would FEEL for these people or animals in a unique way.
I know that I do and will take my view to be reality always;)
Forester’s Law: If one has extra time in life, then seemingly “good” things to contribute money and time to will appear and fill the void.
My proposal is that we all be proactive, sit down, and write out what we perceive to be the injustices in the world that are happening, and then to do something about them. That we be critical in our approach and not just allow “time commitments” to rule our lives and fill the “service/volunteer void” we all have.
At least then, we can claim that we are being intentional about what are money is going towards.
Part of my hope is that I get asked to a fundraiser or non-profit event at some point in the future and I am forced to say that I am already doing “too much good stuff”.
When this happens, I would feel an extreme sense of well-being if I just responded that I didn’t have time for it, not because its not a worthy cause, but because I have chosen worthy causes proactively a prior to this opportunity.
Not in the selfish sense. But in the Human Flourishing sense.
I think that this is the way to approach helping in an affluent country. Otherwise, we tend to miss the forest for the trees and getting stuck on a tree that ultimately isn’t meaningful might just me a tragedy when we arrive at our older self.
How do you give and where? Have you been deliberate and intentional about it?