I’ve had a draft sitting around for awhile that I was unsure whether to post or not. In fact, I think I have three different versions of it sitting on my hard drive.
The New York Time’s Nicholas Kristof had a terrific story in last weekend’s Magazine about international philanthropy. Kristof was one of the people who worked hard to raise awareness of the Darfur genocide and continues to write about similar issues.
His latest piece struck a nerve, as it shows how people who want to make a difference can, if they just make the effort to get involved. Even if you don’t read the rest of my post, I recommend reading his article and thinking about where and how you can help others.
I have a dumb problem. For a couple years I’ve been trying to come up with a cause of some kind to support. I make a few donations a year, either to friends who are raising money for something or by adding some extra onto any runs I take part in. Each Christmas our family adopts a family in need and helps to make their holiday a little better. But I don’t have a cause that I’m committed to, something that I take great interest in, apply my time to, and believe I’m making a difference through.
I feel incredibly fortunate for the life I live. Our family is well-fed, clothed, and safely housed. Our kids are going to private schools. I am able to work in a low-paying job because I enjoy it, not because I have to. It feels like I should be doing something to help others.
But I’ve never adopted a cause because I can’t figure out which direction to go.
Should I get involved with something like Kiva, where I can make small loans to individuals around the world? Each month I could take a little of what I make and directly impact someone else’s life.
Or should I raise money for more broadly based development projects in third world countries, such as the various projects that aim to bring clean water to Africans?
Should I find something like the Darfur genocide groups that I got involved in during grad school and become a true activist rather than simply a donator? I could adopt a cause, blog about it, raise awareness, and create political pressure.
I tend to think globally, since I’ve always been most interested in world affairs. But what about domestic/local groups? Is it better to spend time helping the homeless of Indiana, sick kids at a local hospital, or funding a local center for cancer patients?
Or is it best to spread my time, money, and interest around, supporting a variety of causes over the course of the year as I learn about them?
I think about this a lot, but never come to a decision. Instead, I’m stuck in a strange paralysis where I do nothing. Well, nothing other than writing the checks to friends who are getting up early on a weekend for a cause.
One of my goals for the rest of the year is to break this paralysis and finally do something. I don’t know if I’ll adopt a single cause, or a handful. But I want to finally get to the end of a year with the satisfaction of knowing that I made an effort to share my good fortune with others.
I have some ideas. As I get deeper into this process, I’ll share how I’m progressing here. If you’re down for a cause, feel free to send me a pitch and perhaps you can get me on your team.