By Brenda Tadych
It’s that time of the year again. Before we know it Uncle Sam will pay us back for overpaying into the system. We may decide to save some of our hard-earned tax return or we may spend some, or we may feel philanthropic and want to donate to a charity.
But how do we know who to trust?
We’ve all seen those inspirational stories about how a charity has helped fight childhood disease or helped the disadvantaged across the globe. There’s no shortage of worthy causes out there. But who has the time to research how much of the donation monies go directly to the cause versus going toward a CEO’s exorbitant salary or given back to the largest donors as “gifts?” It’s complicated.
I’ve gotten more address labels than I’ll need in this lifetime from charities asking for donations. Is that organization going to use my money to turn around and send someone else address labels?
It pays to be skeptical. Chances are everyone reading this has heard about, if not experienced first-hand, people taking advantage of someone’s generosity. Take my one friend who gave a girl five dollars for gas only to watch her drive away, right past the gas pumps.
Another friend (a dog lover who has to turn the television channel whenever an animal neglect commercial comes on) once saw a panhandler sitting on a folding chair on a sweltering summer day with a dog laying on the hot ground beside him. She didn’t stop, but found herself in tears by the time she got home, thinking of the dog’s welfare. She was so upset that she packed up dog food and treats and drove back to where the man had been.
The man was still there, but with a different dog. She asked him about it and he said he put the other dog in his trailer, parked nearby, because it was too hot outside. My friend offered him the items for the dogs and do you know what he said? “No thank you.” No thank you? He refused, saying that he had plenty of food and water for the dogs. He explained he was traveling back home but his trailer broke down and he needed cash to have it repaired. She wasn’t about to give him money, but in good conscience, offered to get him something to eat. Again he declined, telling her he had everything he needed. Out of curiosity, she drove by later that day and there was no dog, no man, and the trailer - that supposedly needed fixed - was also gone.
As much as it may anger us to hear these tales of deceit, it’s important not to let the swindlers take our graciousness and generosity away.
I learned an important lesson from a now-retired store owner. She kept a collection box in her store for a local charity that helps patients and their families pay expenses while undergoing cancer treatment. Overnight, someone broke in and stole only the money that was in the collection box. Her response was not bitter or irate. She said, “I hope they took it because they need it. Hopefully, a family is being fed with it.” Her reaction to such a callous act taught me that I can only be responsible for what I give, not for how it’s received. There is a happy ending to that story - whatever amount the bandit made off with was collected again and then some by rallying patrons.
I don’t blame anyone who hesitates to donate money. I, however, am not one of them, although I prefer to support small-scale school fundraisers, or someone doing a marathon, or local events where I can hand over the change in my wallet.
The truth is that we don’t have to look far to find pilferers, shysters and bamboozlers, but for every one of them, there’s a worthy cause run by good people trying to make a positive impact in their world. They’ll get my spare change every time.