Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Philanthropy Trilogy- Part 1


Liar. Also, Karate is no match for Ninjas. Idiot. 

Will the spare change you give a homeless person only go to drugs and alcohol? Is the charity you just wrote a check to in front of a CVS a legitimate charity? Is it still “giving” to an organization if said organization gives you a gift for giving to its organization and said gift increases in value as your gift to the organization increases in value? Great, great questions. This is the constant battle we as young people face as we enter the world of philanthropy. I think I, and hopefully most of us have determined that is does not matter. Your karma points increase in direct proportion to your selfless giving. So, to celebrate “December: The Rise of the Giver,” I present my take on Philanthropy.

Please do not let my definition of philanthropy in this trilogy be confused with just being a decent human being. Being a decent human being is the necessary foundation for Philanthropy. Helping an old lady off the ground after a nasty spill does not make you charitable. Giving the deaf, one-armed, elderly man at McDonald’s the last 16 cents from the bottom of your pocket that he needs to cover his Big Mac, again does not make you charitable. Congratulations. It makes you not a monster.  (Also, philanthropists do not post about their charitable work in their facebook status. Just to be clear.)

Part 1: You Gotta Get Over Yourself

It was a Saturday morning in December. I had made, yet another obligatory trip to Trader Joes and after parking, I opened my car door and on the ground, right there in the parking lot was a tightly folded $1 bill. I let out the “Aaaaawww YEEEEAAAAAH” that happens when I find money. (Only silver(s) and paper excite me anymore. I don’t care if its heads up.)  I thought about all the things I might do with this Universe Dollar. It was a smaller list than I felt should be in proportion to my finder’s celebration, but I put it in my purse, in a special compartment so I could do something special with my good fortune. As I walked around Trader Joes looking for $1 items that I could say the universe bought me, I thought, ‘This is stupid. It’s the Holidays. I’m gonna wait for that perfect moment and I’m gonna give this dollar to someone who needs it more than I.’ (I know. OMG. You’re so great, Andrea. You’re giving away a DOLLAR! Pssshh. Come down off your high pony.) But, I liked the idea of holding that $1 on the universe’s behalf until the right person came along to take it.

Sure enough, the following evening, I was fresh out of work, still in my uniform and had run to Target to stock up on toiletries and stocking stuffers. As I exited, I saw these two young girls in Santa hats and red jackets that read “LA Children.” They were finding no luck as they were lifting their money buckets toward passing shoppers, “Would you like to help the Children of Los Angeles have a Christmas?!?” As I approached I thought of my dollar. ‘This is it! I want to help the children!’ I thought. I walked closer and reached in to my purse, into the special compartment and felt around for my Universe Dollar. Just as I felt it between my fingers and lifted my head from my search one of the girls called toward me saying, “Ma’am!” (‘Ma’am?’ Thanks, ya little bitch.) “OH, Ma’am! Heh, heh, heh.” She laughed to herself, “Why…  Are ya searchin’ in that bag for your SMILE?!?” (For background on why this is was so upsetting to me, please refer the blog post entitled, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile.” Short version: Smile jokes never produce smiles and make perfectly innocent people look stupid. Shorter version: I HATE THEM.)

Smile. Only if you feel like it. 
I straightened up. My jaw stiffened and I held my breath. My eyes glazed over and with the dollar clenched in my hands, I kept walking, ignoring the futureless brat. As I turned a corner, I collapsed over and with my hands on my knees, took a few deep breaths. ‘WTF?!? Why do people think the tricky smile jokes work!?!!’ I thought. ‘And why is a joke best fit for Mr. Rogers’s mom being made by a teenager in 2012?!?!’ After the initial shock wore off, I realized the universe must be challenging me, to react differently this time to the “Smile conundrum.” I just couldn’t overcome it the last time. I never gave to the Red Cross that day in August and guess what? Hurricane Sandy. That’s what. This time I was NOT going to let the children suffer. I was going to get over myself and be the bigger person. I turned back around the corner. I walked toward that girl and her partner and,with a face I call my “John Wayne,” I silently placed my Universe dollar in her money bucket. Oh, I placed it firmly. She said, “Thank you!” I stood there, staring at her for a moment. Then, I reached in my wallet and I pulled out a regular Andrea dollar and again, silently placed it firmly in her bucket. “Oh, uh thanks again… ma’am.” I nodded and I walked proudly away. No point was to be proven by me denying LA’s Children $2 because I think rampant smile jokes are the reason the world might actually end tomorrow (12/21/12.)  But, there I was. Over myself. Ready to grow as a philanthropist. Also, I had probably creeped that girl out with my silence. Bonus. 

If you’ve got it, give it. Selflessly. Without question or expectation. If you learn a little something about yourself along the way, you’re lucky. Very lucky. (Secret: If I ever see that girl out of her Red LA Children's jacket, she'll never smile again.)

This is fake. Probably. 

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