I had a most definitely abbreviated conversation with a friend late this past week that we will most certainly pick up next week as well as the next time that we see each other face to face. The conversation had multiple tangents, but centered on giving back to the community (or giving back to society). I’m not sure that she realizes how much she got me thinking. In fact, I normally don’t think about anything while I am running (more on that later), but I even allowed myself to spend most of the two hours that I ran yesterday thinking about what we had discussed.
The person I was talking with is very involved in charitable organizations. VERY involved. I am not as much involved if at all. We discussed that she has been very involved from an early age while I was not very involved at all. Part of my reasoning for this, at least internally, is because I grew up with little means in a very small community. It has been my experience, right or wrong, that people who live in urban areas are more civic minded than people who live in rural regions.
What got me thinking was when she mentioned that ‘everyone in this country is VERY blessed just to have been born here’. I had honestly never thought of that before. That is, I realize that I work hard for the things that I have - however, I haven’t thought much about the things that are provided to me purely because I am here and not somewhere else. Moreover, once you start believe in an almost original sin mantra of being, one must really try to determine how far you want to go. So, since I know someone who gives nearly all of their free time and 50% of their net wage to charitable organizations, should I give more? I can’t say that I work any harder than a garbage man, so should I donate my ‘excess’ wage to help society as a whole to the point that I am not making any more than said garbage man? My old car was working just fine but yet I bought a new one. Should I have stayed with my own car and donated the remainder to a meals on wheels program?
Of course, these examples seem to be rather extreme (if not a bit asinine) but I think that they illustrate my point very well. At what point are we, as privileged individuals, hording too much of our wealth? Or, for that matter, spending too much of it on unneeded luxury items. What is that magic threshold that tells me “Adam, you make $XXX. You should be donating XX/3.”? I mean, even my church publishes a handy tithing table to “remind” me how much I should be donating. Help me out red cross!
So, what did I learn as a result of this conversation? First, that I probably need to give back more. At first this will likely mean monetary donations. Later, my time will likely be lent to help the cause. Second, never get into a social awareness conversation with someone who has a philosophy minor. You can’t ‘win’. I promise.