Friday, April 18, 2008

Charitable Intentions

Earlier I mentioned that I'm volunteering for Spotlight. I always feel a little guilty disclosing when I do something good for others, like Spotlight or donating platelets. I can still rationalize talking about it; with Spotlight, I think the maximum number of people should attend and/or donate, and I'm backing it up by saying it's such a good cause that I volunteer for it. I talk about donating platelets because I think more people should donate blood, and I try to educate people about the process a bit. Still, I feel a little bad telling people when I do something righteous.

It might be my Catholic upbringing coming back to haunt me. I remember Matthew, chapter 6: "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." (It should go without saying that I can't quote this well from memory anymore; I had to look it up. But at least I remembered that it was in Matthew 6, right in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount.) Even if the religious prohibition against public giving doesn't apply to nonbelievers like me, it still seems tacky to brag about how much you give to charity.

Of course, this only applies at low income levels. If you've got piles of cash and donate it for something worthy (like, say, the Indianapolis Cultural Trail), it's apparently perfectly acceptable to require that your name and your spouse's name appear as part of the logo, and on every light post and sign on the trail. If you throw some (ill-gotten) green at the symphony, it's not at all gauche or tasteless to insist that they name the Circle Theatre after you.
Indianapolis Cultural Trail



But for those of us with significantly smaller cash reserves, it still seems highly tacky to spend too much time reminding people about all the good things we do. And I still feel a bit of a twinge when I do it.

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