Yesterday, I ran a column on panhandlers, which pretty clearly summarizes my feelings about giving money to beggars on the street. Those who wrote to tell me they are superior Christians because they don’t judge people (like I do) are unworthy of a rebuttal. They are free to continue to purchase alcohol and crack for the unemployed and to do it all in the name of Jesus.
But those who wrote complaining that I opined on what not to do while omitting advice on what to do are deserving of a follow-up. For them, I supply the following Ten Commandments of Charity. All of them are brilliant because they are not original. They are all based on the conduct and advice of those I respect deeply. I hope they are helpful:
Small charitable organizations are better than large ones. Years ago, the Sigma Chi fraternity (at Mississippi State) was debating where to send its Derby Week contributions. The decision was important as we ended up raising over $50,000. Just as we were about to go with The United Way or some standard national organization, a member named Hamp Bryan told us about a hospice in his home town that was in danger of being shut down. We ended up going with the smaller charity and helping it keep its doors open. The United Way did just fine without us.
Individual charities are often better than organizations. What happens if you can’t find a satisfactory charity? Is there any reason why you should not target a person or family? Some years ago my mother helped a former heroin addict (and convicted felon) get on his feet. When he got a job, he needed money for gas and other miscellaneous expenses. His family was invited into our home for nice home cooked meals. When he went astray (and back into a life of drugs) she knew it immediately. It’s easier to know when to stop giving to an individual but it’s harder with an organization that goes astray.