I walked down Broadway, the way I usually walk down the streets of NYC. With purpose. On a mission. On my way to somewhere to do something most definitely important. My gaze was straight ahead, sunglasses on. My message was clear: Don’t bother me.
But every once in awhile, you get distracted. And if nothing else, those UWS clipboards have an instinctual radar for it. “Just a moment of your time?” I stopped, really annoyed with myself that I let my guard down. Already planning my answer. Yes yes. I believe in your cause. I really do. But no, I cannot afford an auto deduction from my credit card right now. There. I said it. And then he looked at me and said, “You don’t have to give that much. You can give $10 a month if you want to.” I stopped in my tracks. “I can?” Huh. My mind was reeling. Come on. $10 a month doesn’t make a difference. Well…that is $120 a year…Still. Drop in the bucket. Unless…if ten people gave $10 a month. Or hundred people gave 10 a month…that’s $12,000. Huh. Ok. I agreed to give $10 a month. I mean, he got me there—at 33 cents a day, that’s just under the amount that falls to the bottom of my purse on a daily basis.
So if it’s that easy…Why don’t we give more often?
Almost everyone I know is good and kind. (It’s not by accident. I surround myself with these people intentionally.) They would never wittingly turn away someone in need. So why don’t we do help out more? Sometimes we just don’t give of ourselves to those in need as often as we would like.
It’s Too Depressing
It’s tough to watch. Giving forces us to recognize those who are in need, and thereby recognize how we often take things for granted. We’ve all experienced this. We are complaining that the barista at Starbucks used full fat milk when we wanted skim, and we walk outside to see someone laying on the street using a cardboard box to keep out the cold. Sometimes, the thought of giving forces us to see. As essentially caring human beings, we see things that break our hearts. We are handed a big shot of perspective with a survivor-guilt chaser.
We may even find that in a big city like New York, we become a bit desensitized to the whole situation. We see it so much.
Lack of Resources
We are broke. Sometimes, we actually can’t commit to a monthly credit card deduction.
What about giving of our time? Turns out that’s our scarcest resource. We have even less of that than we have money.
We live crazy lives. We work crazy hours. We don’t have the time or even know where to begin looking for a place to volunteer.
We believe these stories because it helps us convince ourselves that we can’t help it. Being cynical is a very real excuse that keeps us from doing a lot of things. We tell ourselves a story that because we can’t get what we want immediately, we shouldn’t bother. We don’t eat healthy because we think we can’t lose ten pounds by June, so may as well not even try. We tell ourselves a story that because we can’t give a thousand dollars, we may as well not give at all. In our minds, these stories become truths.
So instead, we do nothing—which is the only choice guaranteed not to make a difference to anyone. Anywhere. Including us.
I Want to Break Free.
(When in doubt, there’s the wisdom of Queen.)
But how? You want to help. You know you do. But the more you want to, and feel you can’t, the less you give. How do we break this cycle of non-giving?
Let Someone Else Figure it Out
No, seriously. We are all good at different things. You don’t always have to be the one who figures everything out.
What if someone else—someone you trust—did the work for you? Hear me out.
What if there were an organization that you could join who made it easy for you? What if they set up a way for you to easily give as little as $10 a month without even thinking about it? (That’s 33 cents a day.)
What if this group organized volunteer outings, where you could sign up for an hour or two somewhere in this great city, and spend time helping with other great people like you?
A group of people. All wanting to make a difference for others who need a difference in their lives. All working together to make NYC better for those who truly lacking. What would this mean?
It would mean an effing Uprising.
Don’t let anyone tell you that just because it make you feel good is not a good enough reason to help others who are in need. It’s every reason. You feel good. Others’ lives are vastly improved.
One step. You just need one step. (The first one.)
It’s kind of like working out. Once you get even a little bit of it back in your life, you remember how good it feels, and you can’t believe that you didn’t do it for so long! And when you feel good, you have a better attitude. And, well, that just makes everyone happy.
As it turns out, that good attitude not only feeds on itself…it actually feeds others.
Truthfully—I was pretty broke when I committed to that clipboard on Broadway that day. But my attitude shifted at that moment. In a strange way, committing to give $10 a month was a small gesture that gave me power to help someone else when I thought I couldn’t.
Did giving $10 a month change my lifestyle any? No.
But I like to think that’s it’s changing someone else’s…