Monday, July 7, 2014
Give a Little Bit
There's a good story going around the US right now about a little girl that was attacked by a dog and then refused service at a KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) restaurant in Jackson, MS. The story goes that she was asked to leave because her appearance was "disturbing" other customers (or something like that). KFC claimed no knowledge of the incident and couldn't even find any evidence that she ever entered the store through their own internal investigation. It was deemed a hoax (still pending, of course) and the story was mostly dropped and will soon be forgotten.
When the story was still hot, however, a donation page was established. The page was seeking donations for corrective surgeries and potential legal costs (among other things). That page raised 138 thousand dollars... including 25 thousand from KFC themselves. The page has since been disabled and final numbers are unattainable.
The public cried out "What terrible people", "how could a family use a little girl's disability or disfigurement to make money?" "What is wrong with this country?"
According to the story I watched on the "Today Show" the family had offered to refund any donations made to their cause.
Autism Speaks is a juggernaut among charities. They raise millions of dollars (MILLIONS) every year through their walks and other fundraising efforts.
Yet, about a year ago, in an attempt to secure autism funding through congress, founder Suzanne Wright wrote a scathing "speech" in which she painted the autism community as helpless, at the mercy of these "terribly disabled" children, and how "autism tears families apart."
The public outcry began again. "That's not my autism", "How could she hate children so much?" "They don't speak for my family" "That's not my experience".
Their financials were released a few months later... "They spend so much money on their board member's salaries" "They fund such stupid studies" "I've never received a penny from them... or any services" "Look at how much of my money they spend on their legal defense!"
And finally, "They don't have any autistic adults on their board."
An underground movement to boycott Autism Speaks began.
Yet, Autism Speaks is still receiving record donations.
Yet, few people (including KFC) actually did take their money back.
- noun "something given to a person or persons in need; alms"
(alt) - noun "leniency in judging others; forbearance"
The four Cardinal Virtues from ancient Greek philosophy are prudence, justice, temperance, and courage. The three theological virtues from the letter of St. Paul of Tarsus (combined make up the commonly know "seven virtues") are faith, hope, and...
The concept (or virtue) of charity is not uniquely American. But no country exemplifies it more. To any foreign readers, did you know that the US actually has limitations and rules written into our tax code to regulate charitable donations? Whenever there is an international crisis, the average US donation (cash only, not including services) is 800 percent (8 times) that of the next leading country? Often to our "enemies". Did you know that the household average in the US for charitable donations is 5-10% of your annual income... regardless of that level. From buying a muffin at your school's bake sale, to building a hospital. Americans give. Corporations donate closer to 15%... and often run their own charities!
The cynics out there will say "well, the US can afford it" or "The wealthy only do it for a tax shelter" or "corporations only do it to funnel money back into their corporation" or "charities never give me anything, so why should I give to them"
The truth is that there are some illegal uses of charities. It does happen. It is also illegal and prosecuted (if necessary)... and extremely rare.
Some people (many) were "duped" into donating to help a little girl get a corrective surgery because KFC denied her service.
Some people (many) are outraged that Autism Speaks doesn't have any autistic adults on their board, pays their board too much, or doesn't speak for them.
Yet, the donations pour in.
Autism Speaks' mission statement is "At Autism Speaks, our goal is to change the future for all who struggle with autism spectrum disorders."
The donation page for the KFC story (not really an official Mission Statement) aimed to "raise money for corrective surgery and legal funds for a little girl."
And so, so many people did.
If you gave $5 to either cause, if you gave $25k to either cause, you did it for the right reason. You did it from your heart.
I remind you, once again, an alternative definition of charity:
leniency in judging others; forbearance.
The US has difficulty defining its culture, sometimes.
We are excessive.
What is "American Pizza"? more meat and more cheese.
What is an "American Car"? Bigger engine. Bigger body.
What is an "American grocery store"? More products. Bigger displays.
The United States did not invent the concept of charity. It's one of the seven virtues, for Christ's sake (pun intended). But, from many different cultures and countries, we brought it here, made it excessive, and made it our own.
Keep giving. Find a charity or cause with a mission statement you agree with. Give your Starbucks to the homeless guy outside. Volunteer at your school. Build a hospital.
Keep up the good work, America. It's your patriotic duty.