Sunday, January 15, 2017

give a little bit

Believe it or not, I'm a pretty charitable guy. You'll just have to take my word for it because one of the most sincere and most meaningful forms of charity is anonymous contribution. And that's exactly how I contribute to the worthy causes that I support — organizations dedicated to furthering the greater good. 

On a personal level, I don't mind helping people, but I do have specific criteria. I will not give money to someone begging on the street. Ever. I see them every day on the bustling streets of Philadelphia and I don't trust any of them. I don't believe their sob stories, their tales of woe or whatever you want to call them. There are facilities set up to help these unfortunate individuals so they do not have to resort to sticking their intimidating empty hand in the faces of passers-by. I believe there are always more options to investigate before giving up and panhandling. But, most people (perhaps dictated by human nature) choose to take the easiest and laziest option. Maybe that's how they ended up in this situation to begin with. And, if you do need to beg for money, you better not have a dog by your side or a cigarette in your mouth. If you are so destitute that you need the assistance of your fellow man, you need to give up luxuries (and they are luxuries). My wife and my mother-in-law have employed a method of not just blindly handing over cash to a total stranger. They have, on several occasions, offered to purchase a meal for someone who has asked for money. Sometimes, the offer is accepted and other times further negotiations ensue... and then, the ungrateful recipients are just looking a gift horse in the mouth, thus (in my opinionated opinion) revealing their true level of poverty.

A slight level up from the poor folks huddled in a tattered jacket with hands extended in silent need, are those who have taken advantage of the recent GoFundMe preference. GoFundMe, established in 2010, is an internet fundraising website, allowing users to create a "campaign" to raise money (usually with a goal) for a specific purpose. Independent bands use it to self-finance a record, offering perks and rewards to supporters at different levels of contribution. Organizations have kicked off efforts to send an athlete to the Olympics. Individuals have hoped to raise funds for victims of floods, fires and other life-changing disasters. Community groups or extended families pushed for money to save the elderly from home foreclosure. All worthy causes, I suppose, but there's always someone who comes along and ruins a good thing. Someone whose laziness and selfishness skews their self-awareness so much, they see themselves as a poor victim.

GoFundMe has become the internet spot for panhandling. An acquaintance, who has been out of work for a few years, was hung out to dry by a stream of veterinarian's bills from on-going procedures for her aged dog. Now, let's analyze that for a second. She's been out of work for years and can barely pay her month's financial obligations. Her dog is old. (I won't even go into the fact that she shouldn't have a pet if she can't support herself.) The vet bills were crippling financially. So instead of A.) looking for a job or B.) eliminating all of the unnecessary spending in her life, she chose the GoFundMe route as her first option. I know a young lady who wanted to take an educational trip overseas. Her family is in no position to pay for said trip. Instead of making an attempt - any attempt - to raise money on her own (baby-sitting; dog walking; car-washing) she chose instead to start a GoFundMe page and then plopped her ass down on the sofa to fool around with Snapchat while the dough rolled in (it didn't). I've seen GoFundMe pages for honeymoons, baby showers and birthday parties. All set up by the people who would reap its benefits.

Most recently, a campaign was started to purchase a failing local farmer's market that, at one time, housed my in-law's business. They closed their place ten years ago and we expected to see the place shutter for good soon after. It limped along for nearly a decade, but now, it's up for sale by the off-site, out-of-touch owner for seven million dollars. A starry-eyed market patron, with no clue how a business operates, started a GoFundMe campaign to raise the money. His pitch, while fraught with spelling errors, was an erratic and non-nonsensical plea that veered into berating territory. Upon a second read, it was actually a pretty compelling testimony for why the market should close. My wife composed a rather lengthy inquiry email to the guy asking if he had considered the cost of regular maintenance to the building, in addition to pay for the staff and other expenses like paving the parking lot and taxes and insurance. However, she decided that her comments would be wasted on someone who was not aware of what is involved in running a business, so she did not send the email. To date, the guy hasn't raised a cent.

I'd like to think that GoFundMe was not established for those folks who think that their problems are the world's problems. These are the people who emphasize the "me" in GoFundMe.

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