David Bruce: Charity Anecdotes

• Chicago, Illinois, resident Carlo Garcia says, “One day this idea popped into my head: How hard would it be to give back to charity every day? What’s stopping us from doing that? Because I don’t make a whole lot of money, I had to look at my finances and see what areas of unnecessary spending I could cut.” He decided to do just that, recording his efforts on his blog titled Living Philanthropic. Putting his idea into action, he started making small changes to his life, such as not buying Starbucks coffee but instead drinking the free coffee at work so that he could donate to charity the money he used to spend on Starbucks coffee. And so, on December 22, 2010, Mr. Garcia had not bought Starbucks coffee for over 230 days. Each day, he donates amounts of money ranging from $5 to $200 to non-profit charities. He says, “You don’t have to be rich and famous to make a little bit of good.” Whenever Mr. Garcia makes a small donation to a charity, the readers of his blog often also make small donations to the same charity. These small donations add up. For example, Mr. Garcia once gave $10 to the charity Alex’s Lemonade Stand (which raises money for childhood cancer research); the followers of his blog donated an additional $567. One person who has been inspired by Mr. Garcia’s microphilanthropy is Julie Gosselin, a professor in Ottawa, Canada, who says, “It changed my outlook about charity and giving. It made me think of giving a little bit less but more regularly, and developing a life ethic about giving to others. It doesn’t have to happen around Christmastime; people need things all year long.” She adds, “We have to help each other. Me having a little bit less is far better than people having none.”

• In Buffalo, New York, Waldemar Kaminski ran a food stand in Broadway Market for over 50 years. He invested his money in the stock market, grew rich, and anonymously gave away millions of dollars. After his death in 2006, many recipients of his charity came forward. Anne Gioia, co-founder of the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, a medical facility to which Mr. Kaminski gave many millions of dollars, said, “He didn’t want anyone to know him, but I just had to thank him. Now I think we should shout it from the rooftops.” Mr. Kaminski donated $1 million for an endowed chair in pediatrics for the facility; he also donated $1 million to build a two-acre park for the campus of the facility. Ms. Gioia said, “He felt that if you died a wealthy person, you had not lived a worthwhile life.” He gave to many other charities as well, and he also helped individual families with college tuition and with mortgage payments. One of his nieces, Marsha Kaminski, who lives in Oakland, CA, said, “It wasn’t a handout. He was supportive and helped them maintain their dignity. If they were helping themselves, he wanted to help, too.” She added, “He didn’t need the material things for happiness. He enjoyed just being with people and doing what he could for them.”

• Some charities send free gifts to people they hope will donate or will continue to donate money to them. (These are known as “guilt gifts.”) However, as you would expect, sometimes theses gifts backfire and get the recipients angry at the charity. An actress friend of Guardian columnist Michelle Hanson received a gift of slippers from a charity she supported. Angry, she sent the slippers back. When she received a letter asking if she had received the slippers, she grew angrier and sent the letter back. Then they sent her a gift of gloves. This didn’t help; after all, the actress had been hoping that the money she had given the charity would be spent on helping the needy, not on providing her with slippers and gloves that she didn’t want or need.

• Vinoba Bhave worked with Mahatma Gandhi to win independence for India, and after the assassination of Gandhi, he was regarded as Gandhi’s spiritual successor. He started the bhoodan yagna, or land-gift movement. Walking throughout India, he asked wealthy people to donate land to poor people. Many people did this, donating millions of acres of land to be used by the poor. In one case, a poor man gave one-thirteenth of an acre of land because he had started a job at a factory. Vinoba Bhave returned the land, saying that the man was poor and ought to be given land instead of donating it.

• A beggar requested alms of R. Israel, the Zaddik of Pylov, who felt sorry for the beggar and gave him some coins. But as the beggar was going away, R. Israel ran after him and gave him more money. Some witnesses were puzzled by this, and they asked why R. Israel had given extra money to the beggar. R. Israel explained that he had felt sorry for the beggar and had given him money, but then he had realized that the reason he had given the beggar money was not charity but instead to make himself feel better. Since Jews are required to give charity, he had then given the beggar the extra coins that really were for the beggar and so really were charity.

• Rabbi Haim Eliezer Waks immigrated to Israel, where he advised the Jews to engage in agriculture rather relying on halukah(charity raised outside Israel for the Jews living in Israel). Some of the Jews pointed out that the halukahwas steady, whereas agriculture is uncertain. Rabbi Haim asked, “What will you do if the halukahmoney suddenly stops?” They replied, “We are not worried about tomorrow.” Rabbi Haim told them, “Then you are like the wicked person who says, ‘Why should I be concerned about the tomorrow of the World to Come? I live only for today.’”

• Rabbi Gamliel believed in giving charity cheerfully. After all, he explained, money given to the poor is not lost. God guarantees the money given to the poor, and he returns with interest in the next life what is given away in this life.

• “If there are poor on the moon, we will go there, too.” — Mother Teresa.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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