Wednesday, October 22, 2014

When You Can't Give to All the Charities...

I struggle on and off with giving to charity.  I don't struggle as in "I wonder if I should give to charity."  But rather, which ones.  It seems like every other day we hear of new needs for aid and money.  And the requests run quite the gamut - aid in our home town and overseas, for persecuted Christians and for missionaries among non-believers, for education, for the young and for the old, for the sick and the dying, for the homeless, the lonely, the imprisoned, the unborn.  

Human need is immense and unending.  Because this is a fallen world and we are a fallen people, "need" will never be sufficiently met.  That is an overwhelming thought.  Sometimes it can be a little paralyzing.  There are so many needs, how can I possibly choose the few that I will support.  How do I know which ones are the best fit for me?  If all are in need, how do I know which are the *most* needy?  When on this earth, will I ever find the time to research all the charities and find the one right for me???

I can begin to feel like a deer in the headlights in the face of a world in need.  It is easy to feel helpless.  They need so much.  I have so little.  And yet, we are called to give. 

Giving alms is not just a duty to be fulfilled.
You and I are able to lavish affection upon those around us, 
because we have been born to the Faith, through the Father’s love for us. 
Ask God boldly for this treasure, 
for the supernatural virtue of charity, 
so that you may practice it even in the smallest details. 

- St. Josemaria Escriva

A while ago, I stopped deluding myself that there will ever be time to "research" organizations and choose those are the "best fit for me."  Instead I have come to recognize that instead of picking charities that are right for me, perhaps God has chosen me for certain charities.  

We can escape the paralysis that comes when we are faced with so many choices by embracing a couple simple concepts.

When you can't give to all the charities, give to the ones you can.

Simplify.  Don't feel like you have to search far and wide.  So many options come to us.  I sometimes feel doubtful about how "holy" it is to give to organizations when it seems too easy - like when a missionary priest makes and appeal at Mass and I happen to have $20 in my purse.   I have the tendency to think, "that was too easy.  It doesn't really count."  Perhaps I need to start recognizing opportunities such as that as God inviting me into a charitable organization.  Maybe it wasn't just that I had the twenty in my purse that day, but that God had arranged for me to be present for that particular appeal that day :)

Support groups/causes that tug on your heart.  It makes sense to give to organizations and causes that "speak to you," but it's hard to leave behind the guilt we may feel in singling out something in particular at the expense of all the other "good" options.    In that case, we have to remind ourselves that God asks us to give, but not to give to every good organization.  To dwell on the idea that we are responsible for all the charities is prideful.  It is better to give where we can and trust that God is nudging other servants to aid in the areas where we can't.  If you love the blessing of education, support Catholic mission schools and don't feel guilty that you're not supporting the mission hospital.  If you love music, contribute to the fund for musical instruments for inner city kids and trust that God will lead another to donate to the fund for gym shoes.  God will provide. 

Don't limit yourself to monetary contributions.  This is especially important to me since I have children.  Sometimes it's harder for kids to get enthusiastic about a generic (albeit very helpful) dollar amount.   I will never forget the Christmas when I was very young and my mom helped me bake cookies to bring to an order of poor religious brothers in our city.  The brothers probably needed money more than cookies, but that act of charity clearly made a lasting impression on me.  The true gift may not have been the cookies, but the lasting impression of the joy of charitable service my mom gave me.   My kids are much more interested in almsgiving when it involves something tangible - raiding our pantry for the soup kitchen or choosing our gently used toys to pass along.  When we have the opportunity to buy Christmas gifts for the less fortunate we always choose children that are the same age and sex as our kids - it's fun and relevant for my kids to choose gifts for kids "just like them."   Gifts of time and talent are equally worthwhile such as volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center or a homeless shelter, or crocheting (!) a couple extra hats and scarves for a cold-weather clothes drive :)  This year I crocheted matching hats - for one of my girls and one to give away to a charity - and I told my daughter how awesome it will be to pray for her matching hat buddy in Africa every time she wears her hat here :)  That kind of charity speaks to my kids.  

Finally, pray.  Obviously, we should pray that the Spirit assists us in giving cheerfully and generously.  But I suggest adding that we pray for wisdom in giving.  As I mentioned, I don't have lots of free time research all of the financial breakdowns of a charity, or all of the sub-sub-sub-headings of departments that my money goes to support.  When it is possible, it is important to "vet" agencies because we are called to be responsible with our donations.  It would be wrong to knowingly contribute to organizations that use donations for work that is contrary to Catholic teaching (for example, abortion or contraception under the guise of "health care")  However, when we give without the opportunity to know all the nuances within a charity or organization, we should pray that our contributions are used to the glory God for the good of his people.

I am not capable of doing big things, but I want to do everything, even the smallest things, for the greater glory of God.
- Saint Dominic Savio

I pray that when we give it glorifies God and radiates Christ.  I hope my children recall the joy that come from cheerful giving as they get older.   I pray that we are always in tune to the ways in which God is calling us to share with others... and that giving will soften the grounds of our hearts to receive the grace God promises in return.

For it is in giving that we receive.
-Francis of Assisi


  1. Some really great considerations here!

  2. Sorry to comment so long after the original post, I am 'binge-reading' to catch up! I love your note about it being prideful to think I need to contribute to 'all' the charities. I get overwhelmed by the need in the world, and this is an eye-opening way to think about it and be more at peace with 'settling' for the organizations my husband and I pick out together.

    1. Rebecca, no need to apologize! I'm so happy to have you here!
      Thanks for your comment :)


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