Sunday, February 26, 2012

Reaching out

There are a lot of giving pledges out there.
So what is the point of all these pledges?

When I was about thirteen, I got very upset about the fact that I was spending my allowance — $4 a week — on things for myself instead of helping poor people. I spent most of my allowance on clothes, so I vowed never to buy new clothing again. My plan was to wear my current clothes until they wore out, and make new ones from the fabric in my mom's craft room. I requested that lightning strike me down if I broke my vow. (I was thirteen, okay?)

I don't think I made it even six months.

That's why I wish I'd had a community of people who were thinking about these things. People who could have asked me questions like:

Have you thought that if you got a job, you'd have more than $4 a week to give away?

How difficult and crazy-making will this be for you compared to the amount of good it does?

Did you know the clothes at the Salvation Army thrift store on Broad Street are $1 on Wednesdays? Seriously, kid, you're growing out of those sleeves.

A community can help us stick to a well-considered pledge. I'm more likely to keep a public pledge than the one I made alone in my bedroom at age thirteen. And the internet has helped me find people I can ask the questions I have now. Like: is it better to give some money now or more money later? How did you pick a charity? If I want to pick a career that lets me earn more money to give, which ones should I consider?

I'm glad I don't have to think about these things in isolation anymore. A few weeks ago I signed the Giving What We Can pledge, to give at least 10% of my income for the rest of my life. I was already planning on doing that, but now I'll be connected to other people who are doing the same.

So here's an offer: if you're looking for community, I'll try to hook you up. In the Boston area, we have periodic dinner discussions on the topic – let me know if you want an invite to the next one. You don't have to take a pledge - maybe you just have questions or want to chat.  I'm happy to talk with you or connect you to someone who knows more than I do.


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