I live a self-centred life.
Although, yes, I do work in a profession where the focus is on the patient and family, and as doctors we profess to “help others,” I spent the majority of my time fixated upon the self. What would I have most fun doing this weekend? What are my ambitions? What do I want to buy?
Even this insignificant blog, this bypassed back-end of the World Wide Web, is a little shrine to self-progression. It is dedicated to furthering my knowledge and pleasure, and sharing my nerdacious exploits with my readers. Most of my sentences start with I.
I grew up in a Christian family, and attended an evangelical church ever since I can remember. I was an eager participant in Sunday School, which they rebranded to the much cooler “Kid’s Church” (they never placed the apostrophe correctly, and that irked weeny primary school me). Throughout my teenage years, I joined the weekly youth group, lurking on the outer fringes of the cliques until I managed to bring my school friends to church and felt like I finally belonged. I relished the wonderful, deep discussions we had in our small group sessions.
Giving was a huge part of being a church member. It became a matter of habit to drop a few coins out of my allowance into the offering bag every week. When I started earning a small amount of money from cashier work and tuition, I learnt to give more consciously, reflecting on wherefore and where-to I gave my tithe. Towards the end of high school and throughout university, my friends and I banded together to sponsor a child through World Vision on our unimpressive wages.
But I haven’t gone to church regularly for some years now. And with the disappearance of one habit, another has faded: the act of giving.
So for the last couple of months, I have committed to a change of lifestyle. I will donate a portion of my earnings, every month, to a charity or several charities that I believe in, both local and international. This will be a rule rather than an option. The fun part is, of course, picking what or who I want to support.
I hope you don’t get me wrong. I’m not sharing this on my blog to toot my own horn. There are many others who are much more generous, sacrificial and committed than I am. I have friends who run charitable organisations alongside full-time work, or travel overseas on missions. I have done none of those things.
But I know that, with our busy schedules and the stresses of work, it’s easy to feel like you can’t make a difference–that your small gift won’t really change anything. So I hope that by sharing my personal pledge of charity, this post can be a reminder to myself and to you that, whatever our day profession may be, we can make a difference through simple, regular generosity. Our societies need doctors, dentists, mechanics, engineers, consultants, administration workers, policy makers, hospitality staff, mathematicians, researchers, writers, designers and artists just as much as they need people who run charitable organisations. Charities need funding just as much as they need workers. We can be good at the jobs that we do, and develop our skills to earn an income, and give a portion of that income to make society as a whole—the world as a whole—better for every member.
So this month I’m giving to:
- The Motor Neurone Disease Research Institute of Australia, which has already received significant attention through the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
- The Organisation for Autism Research, through Bass for Autism – a great option where you donate an amount of your choosing and get 50 EDM tracks in return for your donation
- Berry Street – an Australian organisation that provides intensive support to children, young people and families who have experienced abuse, neglect or violence, whose workers I have had contact with during my job
I’m also making a conscientious decision to shop less wastefully. This article outlines three really simple questions to ask yourself before you make a purchase, and I think the first one especially is so useful.
1. Will I wear this a minimum of 30 times?
2. Do I really need this item, or am I just attracted to it because it’s similar to something I already own?
3. Is this a timeless item or an unsustainable trend item?
These rules allow you to channel your money into quality items that you need and will use regularly. If I had used these questions earlier, I would have avoided blowing my money on quite a few items that are currently hogging space in my wardrobe. I have a drapey dress in there with a giant alien landscape on it because I thought it looked edge-y and sci-fi. I’ve never worn it :(
So maybe instead of passing along the #ALSicebucketchallenge, consider passing along the idea of Giving Every Month. It’s less catchy, but, I think, more meaningful.