A mature person is one who does not think only in absolutes, who is able to be objective even when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned that there is both good and bad in all people and in all things, and who walks humbly and deals charitably with the circumstances of life, knowing that in this world no one is all-knowing and therefore all of us need both love and charity.Eleanor Roosevelt
I just turned 49. Life’s only getting better!
I can hear you asking, “What can I do to help Brent celebrate?”
Go be a donor. You’ll feel good. You will help.
You can celebrate my birthday until further notice… <;-)
I had a hard time writing my Christmas wish list. Finally, I realized: if it’s that hard to write a wish list, I don’t need anything. Maybe you’re in the same sleigh.
If you want to give this Christmas, here’s a list. They have no problem knowing what they need.
- American Red Cross. Give money, donate blood. Save a life. I’m scheduled for next Friday. :-)
- Engineers Without Borders. Improve others’ quality of life.
- Kiva. Loans that change lives.
Do you have other suggestions? Will you join me in donating?
I remember Kindergarten. We sat around low tables in little chairs. We took naps on thin mats. We had lots of recesses. We pulled each other around in a red wagon following a curvy line on the playground. We pushed creamy paint around on slick paper. We had special songs to sing whenever anyone showed up with new shoes or a haircut.
Posted on the wall near the teacher’s desk was The List. Down the left side was everyone’s name; across the top was a series of seemingly insurmountable tasks:
- Tie my shoes
- Write my name
- Recite the alphabet
- Use scissors
- Say my address and phone number
The goal was for every student to complete the list before the end of the year.
Even though we’re not in Kindergarten any more, some of us still make lists. They’re called “life lists” or “bucket lists” and, like the list on the back of the wall of my kindergarten class, they contain seemingly insurmountable tasks.
- Run a marathon
- Swim 100 miles in a year
- Climb a mountain
- Visit all the states
There’s even an entire genre of books dedicated to things to do, see, read, visit, watch, golf, sail, or just plain buy before you die. Motivational speaker John Goddard created a the mother of all life lists at age fifteen. Amazingly, he’s accomplished nearly all of it.
What’s the point of a life list? At the end of the year, my kindergarten list was taken off the wall and tossed in the trash. Are life list achievements going to be treated any differently?
How about creating another sort of life list?
- Tutor a student in math
- Give blood
- Work in a soup kitchen
- Sponsor a child in an orphanage
- Donate to Goodwill
- Go on a mission trip
- Ring the bell for Salvation Army
- Pick up litter on the beach
- Serve on a jury (without trying to get out of it)
- Volunteer time at school
- Teach a class at church
Along the way, you just might find you enjoy doing these things. Unlike the Kindergarten list, the results of these accomplishments won’t end up in the trash.
In my recent post, Generosity index: what about those rich, greedy Republicans?, I displayed a table showing states that voted Republican are more generous according to the “generosity index.” I received the following response from Art in the comments.
In politics, the opposing parties are forever trying to paint their opponents as morally lacking as compaired [sic] to themselves. Listen to conservative talk show radio, and liberal talk show radio and you will see this as a central theme. To me, this chart simply shows something that has been long well known: The more money people have, the less (as a percentage) they give to charity. You see the rich states at the bottom and the poorer states at the top.
Is this true? Let’s look at the facts using the same measures of “richness” the U.S. Census Bureau does — income and poverty. Using information found in tables 7 and 8 in “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2003,” I created a table showing the 50 states ranked by generosity index, money income, and percent in poverty. The first two columns are sorted in ascending order and the third in descending. In other words, depending on column, the states listed at the top of the table are more generous, have less income, and more poverty.
In general, the table supports Art’s statement. The states with higher incomes are also the states with the lower generosity indexes.
Interestingly, the blue states also have less poverty, though this is not as clear as the money income statistic. What is clear is that the states with the most poverty are all red and the states with the least poverty are all blue. In between the extremes, the red and blue states appear evenly mixed.
Can we draw any conclusions from the poverty distribution?
A couple of days ago, I responded to Fred Clark’s claim at slacktivist that “[i]t is not possible to endorse the work of charitable agencies [* * *] while simultaneously working to eliminate the estate tax.” The discussion has continued in the comments at slacktivist.
In the comments, I used the “generosity index” to support my position that conservatives are not less generous than liberals. In fact, the generosity index suggests that red states are more generous than blue states.
Beth attempted to explain the apparent discrepancy between red states’ and blue states’ generosity indexes by stating that a small number of rich Republicans giving significantly less than the majority Democrats would lower the generosity index for blue states as a “statistical quirk” of calculating averages. Beth makes a valid point and I’m doing a lousy job of summarizing it. I recommend that you read the comments at slacktivist. I’ll place a link there to bring you back here.
Fortunately, the people at Catalogue for Philanthropy (“CFP,”1 the ones who created the generosity index) already thought of this issue. They calculate the generosity index for each state four times using only tax returns with adjusted gross income (“AGI”) in the following ranges:
- All returns
- $75,000 to $100,000
- $100,000 to $200,000
By limiting the data to narrow ranges, CFP is able to avoid the effect of statistical outliers on the averages.
For convenience, I summarized the generosity index rank by adjusted gross income levels and added color coding for whether the state voted “red” or “blue.”
When we eliminate those greedy, fat cat Republicans by limiting our inquiry to those in the $75,000 to $100,000 AGI range, the red states are even more dominant on the top of the generosity index ranking than if we look at the data for all returns. This seems to be the opposite of what Beth expected.
Interestingly enough, if we look at the data for those with AGIs of at least $200,000 (which according to [this site(http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/american-politics/the-2004-national-election/voting-patterns-in-the-2004-election/) should be 63% Republican voters, 35% Democrat voters), the red states still rise to the top of the generosity index rankings.
- I’d like to thank CFP for posting the information and a phone number for questions. I’d also like to thank Marty Cohn for answering the phone (three times!), directing me to the data already posted on their website, and answering my questions. ↩
Seth Godin asks:
- someone in real need of help
- someone you should give money to
- someone who will take whatever money you give and go buy a substance that makes his problem worse
- someone you should cross the street to avoid
Although Seth tries to help with a hint, “there is no right answer,” I have the nagging feeling there is. Maybe there’s more than one right answer, that all of these could be true.
This exact question has been bothering me for more than a week. On our drive home from Sacramento at the conclusion of spring break, my family stopped at my favorite rest stop, just north of Yreka. As we were leaving the stop, a man standing near the back of his parked pick-up held a cardboard sign asking for food, gas, or money. The tailgate was down and the camper shell door was up. A couple of kids were lying in sleeping bags in the back, their heads to the opening. A puppy sat attentively next to the man.
I pointed out the cute puppy to my family as I turned left onto the road that would take us to the northbound freeway onramp. In response, one of my daughters said we should stop and give our traveling food to the man. As I continued on, silently preparing a response explaining why we wouldn’t, she said, “You’re so mean!”
In the next few miles, I was unable to convince my kids that we shouldn’t help this family so we took the second exit, turned around, and headed back to the rest stop. We gave the man some apples, chips, raisin-oatmeal cookies, and a little cash. We turned around again and headed back toward home.
I’d like to say that I felt better helping this man, but I didn’t. I felt like a sucker. And I felt guilty for feeling like a sucker. The car was silent for miles. As I drove, I replayed all the arguments I’ve heard why we shouldn’t have given anything.
- The man didn’t need money. He’s just lazy and he probably makes more money than I do at no cost other than his dignity.
- The man would squander the money on drugs or alcohol and throw away the food.
- I already support homeless people with my taxes.
- I already support homeless people with my offerings at church, some of which go to our local community service programs and our church’s international relief organization
- Organizations do a better job helping homeless people; if I want to help, I should donate to an organization.
- I had other places to spend my money, such as on my family.
Weeks later, I still don’t have a good answer for my kids. Do you?
More evidence of true American generosity. Amazingly, this is not the first time Sandra Bullock has donated $1 million. She also donated after the September 11 attack.