Dating Charity

One day this summer, I had the desire to go on a date. Since I wasn’t dating anyone and since I didn’t really want to invite any of the girls I knew to a date-type activity for fear of starting something I didn’t want, I decided to take myself on a date.

Taking yourself on a date isn’t nearly as sad as it sounds. It’s actually quite fun. There are a lot of benefits. First, everything is a lot cheaper. Second, you don’t have to give yourself as much time to get places. You never have to wait on a late date. Third, you don’t have to compromise: you get to go to the restaurant you want to go to, and you get to see the movie you want to see. Fourth, there is absolutely no stress involved.

On this specific date, I decided, though, that I wanted to do something kind of special. Buying a ticket for one person to a movie is most definitely the lamest part about taking yourself on a date. And so I came up with this brilliant idea where I would buy a second ticket, leave it at the front desk, and then if someone else came alone, they could have it. I thought it was a really cute thing.

I was wrong.

When I explained to the cashier what I wanted to do, she was not amused. She didn’t even crack a smile, which is fine. She didn’t have to be amused by it. But then she was unsure whether or not she was allowed to do something like that. She had to call a manager, and it turned into this big hullabaloo. So I told her to forget it and bought my ticket and enjoyed the movie by myself.

Everything seemed really wrong about this experience. I was buying an extra ticket! Why wouldn’t I be allowed to do something like that?

I was listening to a podcast from Rob Bell the other day. He was talking about this book called The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. The book studies the relationship between the wealth of a region and its health. They found some interesting things. The first thing they did was divided a lot of regions up by income into fifths. And then they compared the top twenty percent to the lowest twenty percent. In America, the top twenty percent makes more than nine times the lowest twenty percent. That’s almost the highest disparity in the world – second only to Singapore.

Anyway, Wilkinson and Pickett found that the greater the income gap, the less healthy (both in disease and in crime) that group of people were. So America is one of the least healthy countries in the world. And it’s not just the poor who are unhealthy. It’s everyone. The rich of America are much more unhealthy than the rich of Japan – a much more equal country.

I started thinking about this in light of all of the Occupy demonstrations. It’s hard to fathom that 1% of Americans own almost a majority of the wealth. That still leaves 99% that aren’t getting that wealth. It’s hard to conceptualize 1% helping 99%. But then I realized. The story from The Spirit Level says that things would get better if the top 20% helped the bottom 20%. And that’s really easy. And then I had an idea.

What if each person from the top 20% matched up with just one person from the bottom 20% and provided for that person as well? Instead of celebrities doing all of this charity work, all they would have to do is take care of one other person. And big things would happen. Crime would go down. Health would go up. Life expectancy would go up. Education would increase. Divorce and unplanned pregnancy would decrease. The economy would improve. It would be unreal.

I don’t know how to pressure the top 20% to do something like this or how to get the bottom 20% to agree to it and so I realize it’s probably just a fantasy.

But it seems kind of silly that it’s easier to donate five dollars to some random charity group than it is to pay for a stranger’s movie ticket.

Dreaming of a One-Person Nonprofit

I work for an organization that supports and aides nonprofits in the area. It’s a great job, and I get to be introduced to a lot of really cool organizations that are doing really cool things.

Yesterday, we brought in a speaker for some local nonprofits to help them with figuring out all the outs and ins of staying right with the law as a nonprofit.

She was from Guernsey County. Guernsey County is one of the ten least populated counties in the state with a population of 40,000. But Guernsey County has 600 nonprofit organizations. That means there is a nonprofit organization for every 70 people. That’s shocking.

At first, the idea of this many nonprofits just stressed me out. There are 30,000 nonprofits in West Virginia, a state with just under 1.9 million people. That’s a nonprofit for every 60 people. There is no way that each of those nonprofits is contributing something unique to the world. Wouldn’t it be better to combine some of those?

But then I realized that wasn’t really the problem. A couple of leaders of a local nonprofit started asking questions about insurance. They wanted to have volunteers drive senior citizens around. But they couldn’t do it because insurance for it would be through the roof.

That’s when it hit me. We need so many nonprofits because we fail each other as human beings about a hundred times a day. If we thought about people, if we took care of our neighbor, if we drove our elderly friends places, we wouldn’t need a billion nonprofits and we would change the world.

How do you help others?