The Best Kind of Charity
I have felt for a long time that there was a better way than giving a donation to a large organization. Then I saw somebody actually do it.
The Best Charity
Watching Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC the other night, and he was talking about a trip he took to Malawi. One of the things he did was visit a school. The students were sitting on the floor, because there were no desks or chairs. He contacted UNICEF to see if there was some kind of program to provide desks and chairs for the schools in Malawi. There was nothing that would have any effect any time soon. And I thought, “Well, what about you? You cannot be expected to miraculously produce furniture for all the schools in that country, but you have a good income and you could afford to take care of one school.”
And that is exactly what he did. He arranged with a local carpenter to make enough of a desk-bench combination to fix up that one school. He paid for those out of his own pocket. That was awesome. Within a couple of days, the desks were being unloaded and taken into the school. That is true charity. It is not a donation to some organization with a grand-sounding name. It is about providing a specific (and long-term) benefit to a specific person. Sure, soup kitchens are great for hungry people. But if that is all you have, you have to feed the same people again tomorrow. Take one of those guys out of the line at the soup kitchen, hire him, pay him a living wage, and you have done something that will last.
O’Donnell, along with NBC, did form a project, through UNICEF, to provide many more desks for schools in Malawi. Within a week they had raised more than $700,000. That is great.
But, for me, the lasting memory of this episode is that one man, with a little cash he could spare, took care of a clear need, on his own and with his own money. The best form of charity is not about giving donations to UNICEF and the local homeless shelter. Those are important, no doubt, but the best charity is to provide help needed by a single person (or a small group) in a way that provides a long-lasting solution.
Give a man a fish and he will eat today. Give him a boat and some fishing gear, and not only will he be able to eat forever, he may well be able to support his family by catching fish.