By Harriet, Ediotr At Large
We live in a community where philanthropy and charitable giving are lauded and generally approved of. Those in the middle classes give a greater proportion of their money than either the moneyed class or the poor. There is social pressure to give to Telethon, to take part in fund raising fun runs and to give to charitable booths set up outside the supermarkets, to provide money for medical research, not to mention supporting the local sports groups and churches. Philanthropy and charitable giving has become a consumer product, the purpose of which is to make the giver feel good, using marketing methods very similar to any product marketing.
I used to have a portion of my budget put away for charitable giving and tithing to the church. Then we got into severe financial trouble and our lack of preparedness was a real problem. Sometime afterwards I watched a television interview with someone from the Salvation Army bewailing government policy that didn’t support those who were being put out of work. His words seared into my brain. He said: “People who have regularly given to us are now having to come to us for help. So not only do we not have the money coming in from them, we have more people who need help.” He finished up his soundbite by calling for those in work to be more generous to make up for the shortfall.
I found it so sad that people were giving from limited resources to support others, as I had done, because of community pressure, and as a result not been able to be responsible for ourselves when financial circumstances changed. I made the decision that I had to get my own house in order before I could support others. The best thing I could do for the poor was not to be one of them and not use up the resources that the poor need. That is taking much longer than I initially thought it would.
Our first focus was to get ourselves out of the environment that was financially and physically unhealthy. Then we had to find an environment where we could thrive, not just survive in order to avoid falling from the frying pan into the fire. That took us 10 years. It took another 10 years to get to the situation where we can support our daughter so that she and her children can both have a better standard of living and prepare for their futures. Our sphere of influence moved from just the two of us, to five of us.
Our primary requirement is to provide a roof over our head and utilities for the later years of our life when we can no longer be in paid employment. We also support our daughter emotionally and with time to make it possible for her to have a higher powered job than she could manage if she had to cope with her children alone. This means the children can go to a better high school and have an improved learning situation, plus she is continuing her studies at university while working full time. The negative side to this is that I chose not to be in paid employment so I could be at home to be available for those times when I was needed and hence our finances are not as flush as they would otherwise have been.
The consequence of the changes we have made is that not only do my husband and I NOT need ongoing charity – which might have been a possibility, no a probability, if we had stayed where we were – but my daughter has avoided needing charity also when her marriage fell apart. We used to hear that charity begins at home but I’ve not heard that phrase for decades.
And of course now I’m into prepping, rather than just surviving to next pay day the need for further accumulation of skills and various forms of preparation and insurance for the future has increased enormously. So I still seldom give money to charities.
I do however offer some of my time, both formally to a church run charity shop and informally to those I find in need who might find my support of some help.
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