Giving can be a gift to yourself
Talk to Marjorie Davis, and you'll wonder why you worried so much. You'll wonder why you opened and closed your checkbook, looked at the numbers again, factored in the worst-case scenario and still didn't know whether you could afford to donate a dime this season.
Seattle Times staff columnist
Talk to Marjorie Davis, and you'll wonder why you worried so much.
You'll wonder why you opened and closed your checkbook, looked at the numbers again, factored in the worst-case scenario and still didn't know whether you could afford to donate a dime this season.
"We're mothers and grandmothers," Davis said, when I asked her where her bowling league, the Village Pin-Ups, found the cash to donate to The Seattle Times Fund For The Needy year after year. "So that ended it, right there.
"We always have money for kids," she said. "I could be broke, but I would have money for them."
Steadying words, at a time when Detroit's Big Three want a bailout and the Dow Jones industrials are bungee jumping with our cash in their pants.
You might want to hold tight to what's left.
But it seems people's hearts can't hear what their checkbooks are saying. So say those who have donated to the Fund For The Needy in the past few years.
"What I have isn't really my own," explained Chris McMillin-Helsel, the registrar at Roosevelt High School in Seattle, where staffers pooled their cash to donate to the annual campaign last year.
"It's a gift to give to others."
McMillin-Helsel and five co-workers made a group contribution to the fund in 2007.
"We wanted to do something together that was helping others and would have some effect on the school culture," she said. "And since the fund helps families, well, that was the link."
Historically, people with the least to spare are the most likely to give, according to Kristen Putnam-Walkerly, founder of Putnam Community Investment Counseling, a Cleveland-based philanthropy consulting firm that also helps nonprofits develop new programs.
"Proportionately, people without a lot of money always give back to the community."
People give because it makes them feel good, Putnam-Walkerly said — especially when they are feeling additional stress.
"Psychologically, giving helps people feel part of the community," she said, "and that even when you're suffering yourself, you can still help others."
Instead of giving $100 this year, she said, give $50. Or, instead of buying someone a sweater, make a donation to a shelter in their name.
"People want to think creatively," she said.
Last year, readers donated $547,803 to the fund, which benefits 13 charities.
Some donations have been as little as a few dollars. One couple cashed out retirement accounts and gave the proceeds to the fund — $37,000 last year.
The six Roosevelt staffers will give again this year, McMillin-Helsel said.
"I think everyone's nervous, but not too nervous to give," McMillin-Helsel said.
"You may never know what effect it has. But you do know that somewhere, someone will appreciate it."
What will you give this year, and why?
Let me know. It may help us see past the big headlines and our shrinking checkbooks, and into where the best of us lives.
Nicole Brodeur's column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or email@example.com.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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