I’m sort of old-fashioned in that I’m not really comfortable talking about money. My parents bred this into me, I suppose, and I flee from any conversation that seems like it might steer toward how much money people make or spend or give away. I especially don’t like to divulge my own numbers. Maybe I make more money than people figure I ought for what I do. Or maybe I make less and they’ll laugh at me. Maybe talking about the amount of money I donate to charitable organizations would come off as self-aggrandizing puffery, or maybe people would be shocked at how little I donate and think ill of me. Maybe it’s just nobody’s business but mine. It’s all very uncomfortable to contemplate.
Today I’m going to step outside my comfort zone a little and talk about what for me is a pretty sizable (if still probably modest) donation to an organization I’ve never donated to before, and for a reason I’ve never donated for before.
It makes me feel good to help people, and I usually donate to groups that feed hungry people. When I drive by the mission in town, it makes me sad to see all those people standing about (especially when it’s cold) with no place to be, no pantry stocked, like mine, with food they can reach past for more appealing food, no sense of stability. So I like to think that by donating to local charities that provide food, I can help some of these particular real people not be hungry. I usually donate to the local branch of the Second Harvest food bank to that end. Last year I also donated to Heifer International to help feed some people abroad. The year my mom died from cancer, I donated to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
When Congressman Todd Akin came out with his “legitimate rape” statement, my wife proposed sending a small donation to Planned Parenthood in his honor, and of course I was in favor of the statement that made.
So when I learned that the Westboro Baptist Church was going to protest the funerals of the people killed in the Newtown school shooting, one of the first things I did after choking back bile at the thought of what a despicable lot these people are was to think that it would be appropriate to make a donation “in honor” of WBC to an organization at odds with the church’s mission. A $20 or $50 donation would be painless enough, and it would maybe send a small message to WBC, or at least sting them a little if they learned about it. But a micro-donation like that would ultimately be purely self-indulgent, a use of the system to appease my own sense of outrage, to basically have a cheap laugh at the unwitting expense of WBC.
So instead, I decided to donate $500. It’s not a small donation for me. As an extra donation, it hurts a little, as a matter of fact, and I think that donations are healthier for us if they do make us a little uncomfortable. It’s not a huge sum of money, but it’s something I feel good about. I hope WBC gets word that I’ve donated to the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network in their special honor, that their abhorrent protest of the funerals of these children on the basis that the shootings were God’s punishment for homosexuality has landed $500 in the coffers of GLSEN that it wouldn’t otherwise have occurred to me to donate.
It’s particularly fitting that GLSEN promotes safety in schools, that they work to prevent the sort of bullying that WBC promotes, and that WBC’s bullying in this case will be directly helping to fund a campaign against such bullying in the future. I hope you’ll join me in donating to some organization at odds with WBC’s mission, and not just the sort of “fuck you” donation my wife and I made in honor of Todd Akin’s stupidity but something substantial, something that’ll make you a little uncomfortable, something that’ll make WBC uncomfortable too.