Stingy or Selfish?


I have been meaning to blog about this for two weeks – since it happened in fact – but I am not sure how to this will come across.

Almost every day I have a free period in the middle of my work hours. I usually stay in the staff room, do some photocopying and other paper work. I am not alone as there are always other colleagues who are in the same situation.

Somebody started talking about the French Telethon. One guy proudly announced that he would never give money for this cause nor to any other. Another one chimed in explaining that the state was supposed to support health and poverty at all levels, which justified his never performing charity. Lastly a colleague with a handicap added that she couldn’t see why she should help anybody or anything since she had so many needs.

First I just sat there speechless. I obviously know that lots of people never give to charities but it is another thing to actually identify them and realize they are folks you interact with every day.

I finally manged to utter a few words and tried to explain and defend my position, namely that I give to a number of charities which work for various causes. It was difficult, not because I am unsure of my choices, but because I didn’t want to appear complacent. I also omitted the religious factor as I knew that the people in front of me were staunch atheists on whom the argument would have been completely lost.

To be completely honest I should add that one other colleague who was also present explained that she gave to a beggar outside the store where she shops and pepared gifts for children with her daughters during the Christmas season.

I am still bothered by all this and wonder whether I should have said more, or less, on this issue.

14 thoughts on “Stingy or Selfish?

  1. Reading this I feel like crying. What is happening to this world and to human mankind?

    The reaction of your colleague with the handicap is one I have heard very often, even to the point that people who are collecting money for a cause, will tell me that I ‘don’t have to give, since I myself need so much’ … because I am handicapped. Good G-d!

    I don’t know if you should have said more on this issue, Ilana-Davita, I only know that I would not have been able to let it go without really (and I mean really) opening my mouth.

    And all this because of the Telethon, where they do what they can to make this life better – healthwise – for the younger ones of our generations, and find causes and cures for horrible diseases, AIDS included. People are so selfish.
    Until it happens to them, or someone close.

  2. It’s good you are saying this here on your blog where people can hear you. I highly doubt you will change the minds of any of those you mentioned.

    “state was supposed to support health and poverty at all levels, which justified his never performing charity” – hello? Good reason to support capitalism. The more money my husband and I make, the more we can support the charities of our choices. Less power to the state.

    I don’t have a problem with someone who is handicapped not giving. Some people DO have a lot of needs and need to concentrate on taking care of themselves. There are women (this is usually a woman problem) that give TOO much. Take care of oneself first, then take care of others.

    • It’s good you are saying this here on your blog where people can hear you.
      I am grateful that some people read and comment.
      I also tried to argue about the possibility to give to the causes you find worthy, which wouldn’t be the case if only the state contributed. But to no avail.

  3. The greed in the world is overwhelming. I am an avid supporter of giving to charitable organizations, not just any ones, but specific ones that I feel will use the money correctly, are worthy, and will not use the bulk of it to pay their staff, etc., and the majority of the contributions go to the cause.

    I feel a responsibility to humankind…and do the best I can with what I have.

    It is disconcerting to realize the extent of those who don’t really care…I don’t mean those who can’t afford to give, but those who aren’t concerned for mankind.

  4. Agh. This has happened to me as well. I find it really hard to be coherent about things like this. Yes, here in the UK the state is also ‘supposed’ to help those in need, but the fact is, there’s never enough and the help doesn’t always go to the right place (actually, very rarely is that the case). Being able to see in your mind’s eye the names and faces of those who won’t find the space in their hearts to give to someone who really needs even the tiniest bit of assistance – it’s really something else.

  5. My husband and I always feel guilty that we never can give enough. I feel sad for those people who don’t understand what giving gives to the giver.

    I hope they are in the minority.

    • On Friday evening, I read an article about generosity in the some Western countries and apparently American people come first – and are much more generous than the French – but are also helped by more favorable tax deductions. The Canadians and British are quite generous too.

  6. Dear Ilana,

    You did exactly the right thing and anything you would have said, in all likelihood, would not have changed a mind or heart in that moment. But, that being said, your statement to give didn’t fall on deaf ears. They could not avoid your words since they were sitting right there. Be thankful they didn’t loudly criticize you for your words. Sadly, that is another loss we are suffering – civility. You may never know it but your words may echo back to one of them someday and a heart WILL change. I remind myself of this a lot. It’s all about ripples. Keep sending them out there and change, however small, might happen.

    Great blessings to you in this holy season.

  7. This is interesting. I once told a Norwegian guy at a conference that I’d been told Americans are the most philanthropic people in the world. His response: “Of course you are! You don’t ask your government to do anything for your citizens so you have to do it.”

    I’m not sure either is still true but it’s an interesting perspective on this. I love your photo for this; I keep mine next to Sabbath candles but I keep forgetting to bring money downstairs to put it in. We here try not to give money to beggars since they are often addicts; it has been our family practice to buy a bagel or a bowl of soup for them instead.

    I think people form their own habits – and that most people, if it’s someone they know or someone in their own community will do much more than for an insitutional “poor person.”

    Hope you are well and happy new year my friend.

    • Nice to see you Cynthia.
      I tend to act like you towards beggars,; I buy them food rather than give them money. There used to be one with a small dog outside the store where I frequently shop and I would give food to his pet to make sure he didn’t starve himself for the sake of his animal.
      Happy new year to you and your family too!

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