A Testimonial from the Altruistic Front
The Pelican and Stars.
"The primal duties" of charity "shine aloft like stars."
“Be the one who nurtures and builds. Be the one who has an understanding and a forgiving heart one who looks for the best in people. Leave people better than you found them.”
-- Marvin J. Ashton
“The charity that is a trifle to us can be precious to others.”
I often think back to the first major fundraiser that I planned. As part of the Student Government Association during my senior year in high school, I had pledged to raise $1,000 for the environment by the time Earth Day rolled around. I relentlessly pursued results, knocking on countless doors and organizing weekend car washes. With less than $200 left to raise, I stationed myself at a table outside the local Winn-Dixie alongside giant colorful “look at me” posters and a massive donation jar for Mother Earth. I felt great, until a disgruntled shopper told me that I would be helping the planet more if I spent all of those hours actually picking up trash on the beach or planting trees. Put your sweat where your mouth is, he said.
Years later, while I was hopefully saving the lives of seagulls by organizing a college cleanup to pick up empty beer cans on the beach, I was approached by a volunteer for a wildlife protection organization. The take-away was simple. It’s really sweet that you want to save the animals, but in order to make a larger impact we really need your pledge. I couldn’t win! Why was it so hard to feel good about what I was doing? It wasn’t until recently that I realized the answer; altruism, and all of the good feelings accompany it, are the result of not expecting acknowledgement. It’s the quiet do-gooder who finds peace.
We all want to help others. We can all agree that there are benefits to stretching out our hands and helping our neighbor. With every dollar we donate, hour that we set aside, or petition that we sign, we might discover a heightened sense of satisfaction. But with busy schedules and demanding jobs, we run the risk of missing those small opportunities that could have large implications for others.
Those moments are often right in front of us; the homeless man in the train station, the children who can’t quite reach the ball they managed to kick up onto a roof, or the elderly gentleman who sits patiently in the park, waiting for someone to challenge him to a chess game. I know I have been guilty of ignoring some of these situations; I walk by in a rush, completely preoccupied with my own problems and the stress of my day. I rationalize it by thinking, “Someone will help.”
More often than I’d like to admit, my boyfriend ends up being that someone. In mid-conversation, he will reach into his backpack and hand the homeless man a granola bar. He never once has looked at me to acknowledge his behavior; it’s simply natural for him. Even when he contributes money for a good cause, he does so anonymously, to organizations which are transparent with their funds, so that he knows that the funds are going directly to the cause.
When I asked him last week why he contributed to a teacher he had never met as opposed to one of our teacher friends on DonorsChoose.org, he simply responded, “Because she needed it more.” He has found that perfect balance between his awareness of others’ needs and his actions. A silent hero, he does not shout from the rooftops that he is making a difference. Instead, he finds peace in those quiet chess games he plays with the gentleman in the park.
More about James…
James Walter Doyle served as an inner city school teacher for seven years, teaching 12th grade English in Harlem. While teaching, he formed the Kids n Culture initiative that connects the community as mentors for high need, high school students. Together, they work through a rigorous curriculum, culminating in an international study tour made possible through in-kind donations. Walter has recently joined the staff of DonorsChoose.org, a non-profit that puts allows citizen donors the opportunity to make a difference in education by funding classroom resources. His primary focus is to motivate teachers to continue empowering their students, specifically those in low-income communities. He currently lives in New York with his boyfriend and their cat, Holden Caulfield.