We’re called to practice charity. Not just in faith, but in our basic human biology. Charity is shown to improve both our physical and mental well-being. Charity everyday is a call to make charity- in both thought and deed- a part of our everyday life. The concept of charity is universal- it can be found in faiths around the world as well as secular moral thought.
While charity is touted throughout the Bible, my favorite verse is Matthew 25:35-36: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” It goes on to say that what we do for the least our brothers, we do for the Lord.
Check out the “Faith & Charity” section of my website for more content like this!
Charity in Thought:
Charity doesn’t require giving away money or possessions. It starts in the heart and brain. Charity is the unconditional care of and love for all living beings.
But how do we practice it? How do we make our very thoughts more charitable?
• Always make an attempt to find a positive spin. If someone credits someone with hateful motives (and this happens a lot, especially online), try to look at it from the point of the person being called hateful. Imagine their background, their day to day life. Are they maybe lashing out in anger because they are so unhappy themselves?
We had an apartment manager once who was rude and angry. All of the time. Going in the office- even to drop off rent- was an exercise in patience. But then I had a thought. How miserable did she have to be to act that way all the time? All of the sudden my annoyance with her changed to pity and understanding.
Practical action: if you see someone being very negative online and if you feel you won’t be dragged into an argument, try to insert some positive aspect.
• Acknowledge that your struggles are not the same as others. Maybe you completely understand fighting daily pain, but have no idea how someone could ever become addicted to drugs. Or you completely understand wanting to (or actually) screaming at the kids. But don’t understand how someone could yell at a complete stranger.
The old adage “walk a mile in their shoes” is true. You must acknowledge you do NOT know exactly how someone got into their circumstances. Not that they’re blameless. But it’s our place to help- even if only by empathizing.
Practical action: Don’t make negative comments about that person or even agree when someone else does. If it seems appropriate, point out that we don’t know everything that led to their current actions. Avoid the “nodding in agreement” when a friend or acquittance says something negative about someone else.
Cash Back on What You're Already Buying:
Do you shop? If so, you can give back to charity. There are multiple ways to do it.
• One of my favorite is Amazon Smile. AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support your favorite charitable organization every time you shop, at no cost to you. There are almost a MILLION charities to pick from.
• Check your credit card or debit card. Often there are rewards programs. You can choose some or all of your rewards to go to various charities.
• Donate your airline miles. MakeAWish, in particular, is very appreciative of them! The link sends you directly to their airline mile donation page. There is also an excellent article “How to Donate Unused Reward Miles & Points” that you might find interesting. It has a TON of options for you.
• Giving Assistant allows you to shop and a certain percentage gets donated to charity. They have over 2,500 stores on there currently! I check with the BBB and they have an A+ rating.
If you have time and the inclination, consider volunteering your time.
Make sure you have the time. If it’s going to be something else you have to fit into your schedule, you might approach it with the wrong mind-set. Being negative while volunteering- or allowing it to add negativity to your life- does no one any good. This is a lesson I’ve learned well. I used to volunteer at a homeless shelter for women. While it was good work…I jumped in too much. I started to think negatively about everything- including the work I was doing.
Make sure you have the inclination. It’s good to try new volunteer opportunities! But if, after a few months, you decide it’s not for you, then quit. Again, bringing a negative attitude towards it (even unintentionally) does no good.
Finding places to volunteer is ENDLESS. Even if you only have an hour a week or a month!
• Local school, particularly if you have kids there.
• Support group- for example, I’m a military wife. I volunteered at the FRG.
• Local nursing home. Trust me, they’ll want your help.
• Animal shelter.
• Or check out “Volunteer Match“…it’s fabulous for finding all sorts of opportunity wherever you live!
Give Your Stuff Away:
Giving away unused possessions is another obvious choice.
Make sure what you’re giving away is quality. I worked at a homeless shelter for women and you wouldn’t believe the donations we got. Stained, torn, dirty, etc. I would say half of what we received was tossed. If you wouldn’t wear it, don’t give it to someone else.
• For clothing, donate locally. Donating to a group that sends clothing overseas is wasteful, but more importantly, many of the countries receiving such items are suffering in their own textile industries. Basically…you’re giving away some clothes and taking someone’s job. In addition, donate GOOD items. Charities that accept clothing usually keep less than 10% of what they receive. Some are resold to textile mills. And the rest? They’re thrown in the same trash can you skipped.
I usually cut up for cleaning rags old clothes that don’t quite fit the bill of a quality donation.
• For toys, check out local shelters, children’s centers, preschools, nurseries, and church charities. Even easier? If your local neighborhood has a Facebook group (most do these days), just post asking if someone wants it. In our neighborhood, whoever is donating just leaves in on the front porch, and whoever grabs it, gets it.
• For electronics, Consumer Reports has a great article on various ways to donate or recycle your electronics. My personal favorite was selling it on eBay for Charity! If you’re looking for an even easier option, drop them off at a Best Buy. They accept many items. This Electronic Recycling Guide <<<click there<<< has information on multiple types of electronics and who accepts them. “How to Recycle Old Cell Phones” has information on how to wipe your phone and where to donate them.
• Skip donating your glasses. Bloomberg did a report…it actually costs more to match up particular prescriptions with people, shipping it there, etc. than it does for a doctor to just give the exam and glasses.
• Please, please…skip Goodwill. I’m sorry, but they’re not a good charity. They’re a mill for taking donated goods, underpaying people, and re-selling free stuff. The CEO’s pay is ridiculous in the world of charity.
• For anything else, search Google. Seriously. Go search “donate dishes” and there is a link of a place that will actually pick them up!
Organized charity is a fairly obvious choice for charity. That being said, make sure you check out the charity you are giving to. Every time there is any sort of disaster, charity programs pop up (often in the form of GoFundMe accounts). Make sure you’re money is going to actually helping people.
Please check out Charity Navigator. They rate charities on a variety of metrics and let you know if a charity is perhaps not on the up-and-up, is wasting resources (or funneling all those donations to paying staff), etc.
However, my personal favorite charity is “Warrior Wagons. (link will take you to their Facebook page…just click the “Shop now” button to donate). My nephew Drew, at the age of 2 years old, died earlier this year from a particularly aggressive form of cancer. They put together wagons for new pediatric patients suffering from cancer. The wagons are not only useful for pulling said patient around the hospital (the kids love it!), but they’re stuffed with valuable items that my brother and his wife found helpful during their year of treatments- gift cards to restaurants close to the hospital, quilts, books, coloring materials, etc.