You are either not logged in or not registered with our community. Click here to register.
 
December 04, 2016, 02:42:27 PM

Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?

Login with username, password and session length

Click here if you are having problems.
Default Wide Screen Beige Lilac Rainbow Black & Blue October Send us your theme!

Hark!  The Herald!
Holiday Issue 2016

Wiki Blogs Dicebot

Author Topic: The Purpose of Charity  (Read 4957 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline TorterrableTopic starter

The Purpose of Charity
« on: January 28, 2014, 07:51:22 AM »
So, my roommate and I were having this discussion last night, and I thought I'd post it here, since it is, indeed, a topic for debate and controversy. My hope is that it's not a very intense one, but it is still one that is fun to discuss.

Why do we, as humans, perform good deeds? Why do we hold the door open for others? Why do we go out into the "bad neighborhoods" to serve food to people? Why do we go to cat shelters to rescue them?

As humans, are we truly trying to help others, or is the end of the charitable work not for them, but for us? Is self-improvement our ultimate goal, as opposed to helping others?

The argument was triggered when my friend mentioned a social work fraternity, Alpha Sigma Omega. It apparently had a reputation for doing "empty" social work, that is, social work that didn't have much of a back story, and thus seems to lack substance. One of us stated that, although the work may be "empty", since we are doing it for ourselves, that doesn't matter. The other stated that the purpose of charity does, indeed, matter, as, without knowing that we are performing goodness for others, the self-improvement doesn't take place. Thus, the self-improvement is actually a byproduct of helping others.

While it is very possible that one has both self-improvement and charitable intentions in mind when going out to help others, I am wondering which one is the dominating factor.

Also feel free to discuss why this information is important; my friend and I had an argument over that too, not long after.

Offline alextaylor

Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2014, 10:07:05 AM »
Freakonomics goes over the theme quite a lot. The moral is that we do anything because we expect some kind of personal gain. Nobody is truly selfless.

Some people do these things because they expect an increase in prestige. What increases people's respect for you any more than helping others? If I had a million dollars, I could spend half of that on a good car, which would make people jealous of me. Or I could spend it on charity, which would make people love me.

Some people do these things out of empathy. You've probably heard the term "pass it on". I've been given quite a lot of money by strangers and they only made me promise to "pass it on". The concept here is that they've been low on resources at some point or another and promised to God or some other entity that if they could get the money they need at that time, they'd pass it on to someone in need.

Some people think that there's a higher power that judges their good acts. They may seem selfless in that they expect no reward from other humans, but they do expect a reward from a higher power.

Historically, the early Islamic empire was built on charity. Muslims are expected to pay somewhere between 2.5%-20% of their income to charity. It's considered charity because the money doesn't go into building structures or paying wages for leaders (unlike taxes), but directly into helping the poor, freeing slaves, feeding the crippled, etc. Not giving charity was punishable by death. A lot of people at the time actually donated far more of their wealth.

That charity money improved social mobility, as the poorest people had enough money to work their way into middle class. It also bought a lot of goodwill. I doubt it's possible to really convert people by the sword. But being generous to people is a great way to convert them. If someone knocked on your door and tried to preach to you, would you shoo them? What if they knocked on your door, gave you money you badly needed, then preached to you?

Their power came from spiritual wealth and prestige rather than material wealth and they used their excess material wealth to buy that spiritual wealth.

I did apply to MIT and Harvard at one point in my life but didn't get in. After interviewing all the people who did get accepted, I find that while some had worse scores and even worse communications than me, all of them had one thing in common - a history of charity. Even if it was a small one. Of course, this was a tiny sample size, but I'm sure it helped.


Personally, I donate and do a lot for charity. Ever since I was 13, I'd give a sizeable amount to charity. I find that it pays back very well. People will automatically have a positive view of a charitable person. It keeps you from getting greedy - your motive in doing things is to put that money to good use. Good people tend to be attracted to those who are not greedy. I make most of my present contacts from charitable deeds. And those contacts have pretty much doubled my salary in 1 year. You'll also fall into the same clique as millionaire philantropists... people who are happy to give you a financial boost or at least pay you very well for helping them.

Overall, I'd say charity pays damn well. It's even more powerful because nobody does it. It's hard to be outstanding in a group of politicians or a group of academics, but surprisingly easy to be outstanding in a group of philantropists.

Offline Moondazed

  • Hmm... plot or pleasure? Perhaps a bit of both...
  • Lady
  • Enchanter
  • *
  • Join Date: Mar 2006
  • Location: Virginia, US
  • Gender: Female
  • I'm a switch, name your pleasure...
  • My Role Play Preferences
  • View My Rolls
  • Referrals: 0
Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2014, 10:15:07 AM »
Freakonomics is one of my favorite podcasts.

I'd imagine that the fact that human beings are fundamentally herd animals plays a part?  Why are we more satisfied with our lives when they include some kind of service to others?  I don't think of it as being selfless when I do things for others, my first thought is often along the lines of, "If I were in that position I would hope someone would give me a hand."  I don't know if that's directly to benefit myself, other than the benefit to my karma. :)

Offline Iniquitous

Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2014, 11:48:28 AM »
I do not donate my time, effort, money or belongings to charity with some notion that it betters me. I do it because I do not like to see others suffering. I do it because the tenets of my spiritual belief call for me to. I do it because I firmly believe in the concept of paying it forward and reaping what I sow.

I have been at the very bottom - no home, no vehicle, all of my belongings fitting into one bag and living in a homeless shelter while trying to get back on my feet again. I know first hand how much it sucks, how very demoralizing it is. I know the feeling of shame when you have to stand in line at a soup kitchen, the looks from people passing the line as they hurry to and from whatever it is they are doing. I know the mixed feeling of both joy and shame at finally getting a donation of clothes into the shelter that are nice enough to be worn for job interviews and they FIT!

Knowing those feelings as well as I do, I donate my time, my money, my energy to helping others that are in that boat. Until you’ve been there, you do not truly know how much your charity helps someone and how very grateful those down on their luck truly feel when someone stops thinking the world is all about them and remembers to help his/her fellow man.

I do it because I cannot stand the thought of someone going without when I have enough to ensure they do not. I do it because my spiritual beliefs require it of me. Not for the betterment of my soul but for the betterment of the person in need.

What kind of world would this be if every person on this planet stopped thinking “me me me me me me me me” all the time and started actually helping the people around them? Doing it simply because it is the right thing to do - no desire for remuneration

Offline mia h

Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2014, 12:24:40 PM »
"If I were in that position I would hope someone would give me a hand."  I don't know if that's directly to benefit myself, other than the benefit to my karma. :)
Or "Do as you would be done by" also known as the Golden Rule, taken right out of that there Bible.

What kind of world would this be if every person on this planet stopped thinking “me me me me me me me me” all the time and started actually helping the people around them? Doing it simply because it is the right thing to do - no desire for remuneration
Not saying that people shouldn't get involved in charitable organistions, but what makes it the right thing to do? Is fullfilling your "charitable duty" the most important thing or is it more important that someone's life is improved and the "charitable duty" is a secondary consideration?

Offline Iniquitous

Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2014, 12:44:26 PM »
Or "Do as you would be done by" also known as the Golden Rule, taken right out of that there Bible.
Not saying that people shouldn't get involved in charitable organistions, but what makes it the right thing to do? Is fullfilling your "charitable duty" the most important thing or is it more important that someone's life is improved and the "charitable duty" is a secondary consideration?

I think I made it clear in the rest of my post that the most important part of charity is improving those in need of help. Again, as I said before, I do not do it for recognition, I do not do it for money, I do not do it out of a sense of duty. I do not believe it should be done for any of those reasons. If you are going to get off your butt and contribute in some form to charity then it needs to be done because you have a serious desire to better the lives of those that are in dire need of help and for no other reason.

And btw, the bible is not the first to have the "golden rule". The concept actually predates christainity - for that matter it predates any of the abrahamic faiths (judaism, christianity, islam).
« Last Edit: January 28, 2014, 12:46:29 PM by Iniquitous Opheliac »

Offline Kythia

  • Noooo-one Fights like Kythia no-one bites like Kythia
  • Dame
  • Enchanter
  • *
  • Join Date: Oct 2012
  • Gender: Female
  • No one chain smokes Marlboro lights like Kythia
  • My Role Play Preferences
  • View My Rolls
  • Referrals: 1
Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #6 on: January 28, 2014, 12:46:27 PM »
Does the "effectiveness" of the action matter?  If I'm a high powered lawyer then instead of giving up an hour of my time to help at a soup kitchen I'm doing far more good working an hour's overtime and giving that money to the soup kitchen.  Is that a necessary concern?

Offline Iniquitous

Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #7 on: January 28, 2014, 12:52:04 PM »
Why would you even worry about which is the better form of charitable giving?

I do not always donate money. I do not always go out and buy clothes to donate to shelters. I do not always go to work the soup kitchens. I do what I can do at that exact moment and time.

"Oh hey, I have an extra fifty on this check that I do not need for anything... let me give that to the food pantry." "Hm, there's a Under the Bridge Brunch this saturday and I have the day off... think I'll pop down and help work the food line." "Hm, I know the shelter needs clothes. Can't go to goodwill to buy any so let's see what is in the attic that I don't need anymore."

It ALL helps those in need, it is all effective in it's own way.

Offline Kythia

  • Noooo-one Fights like Kythia no-one bites like Kythia
  • Dame
  • Enchanter
  • *
  • Join Date: Oct 2012
  • Gender: Female
  • No one chain smokes Marlboro lights like Kythia
  • My Role Play Preferences
  • View My Rolls
  • Referrals: 1
Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #8 on: January 28, 2014, 01:02:51 PM »
What about zero effectiveness then?  If you donate a load of clothes not knowing that they already had more than enough.  Or going down to help the soup line when in fact they have enough volunteers and more are just getting in each other's way.  So actions that have the intent of helping those in need but actually don't. 

I'm just curious.  Its an interesting topic.

Online Oniya

  • StoreHouse of Useless Trivia
  • Oracle
  • Carnite
  • *
  • Join Date: Sep 2008
  • Location: Just bouncing through. Hi! City of Roses, Pennsylvania
  • Gender: Female
  • One bad Motokifuka. Also cute and FLUFFY!
  • My Role Play Preferences
  • View My Rolls
  • Referrals: 3
Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #9 on: January 28, 2014, 01:15:21 PM »
Many charities will put up lists of what they need (for example, the Purple Heart charity sent around a flyer saying they needed clothes of all kinds and small appliances).  Some will sell off what they don't need and get a monetary contribution out of your donation (such as GoodWill).  Larger and smaller sizes are often less represented (but just as needed) as 'average' sizes.  Last year, I donated one of the little Oni's out-grown coats to a charity drive and learned that it was the only child's coat they had received thus far.  If you show up at a place to volunteer and there are 'too many', it's always appreciated to ask what does need doing - maybe make a simple McD's coffee run for all of those volunteers!

Offline Kythia

  • Noooo-one Fights like Kythia no-one bites like Kythia
  • Dame
  • Enchanter
  • *
  • Join Date: Oct 2012
  • Gender: Female
  • No one chain smokes Marlboro lights like Kythia
  • My Role Play Preferences
  • View My Rolls
  • Referrals: 1
Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #10 on: January 28, 2014, 01:17:23 PM »
So you don't believe it's possible to intend to help people but end up not doing?  Or, rather, that doing so shows a lack of, I dunno, creativity?

Offline Iniquitous

Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #11 on: January 28, 2014, 01:22:08 PM »
I do not believe in "zero effectiveness". There is no such thing when it comes to charity.

Have more than enough people to work the food line and cooking? Great, put the extras to work cleaning up or simply making those that come in comfortable and helping them.

Shelters will only stop taking clothes when the clothing pantry is to the point of bursting, but (and this is from personal experience) they never have enough. Specifically, they never have enough diversity in sizes. And you would be amazed at what some people will donate. Trash bags full of panties (really? Toss that shit in the trash.), clothes with stains, clothes with tears and rips, socks with holes, filthy clothes that haven't been washed.... shelter staff toss a lot of stuff that is donated because it is unfit.

Then there are the well to do women who will donate their old purses that are coming apart (handles broken or breaking, etc), their old cosmetic jewelry, old make up, half used bottles of hygiene products. All this stuff takes up space in the clothing pantry and reduces the amount of decent clothing that can be accepted. Anyway, I digress - if the shelter tells you they cannot accept it... check the local churches. Plenty run their own clothing closet.

Get told by the food pantry they cannot accept anymore food right then? Check the shelters, check the local churches. Both will have need for food.

The only thing "not effective" is sitting on your rump doing nothing. No matter what there is some place that will gladly accept what you have to donate - be it time, money, clothing or food.

Online Oniya

  • StoreHouse of Useless Trivia
  • Oracle
  • Carnite
  • *
  • Join Date: Sep 2008
  • Location: Just bouncing through. Hi! City of Roses, Pennsylvania
  • Gender: Female
  • One bad Motokifuka. Also cute and FLUFFY!
  • My Role Play Preferences
  • View My Rolls
  • Referrals: 3
Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #12 on: January 28, 2014, 01:25:33 PM »
It might be possible to help-but-not-help with some of the smaller charities.  Although chances are that you end up helping someone.  Case in point - my mother-in-law and sister-in-law volunteer at a food bank in their area.  It's a small operation, and they don't have a lot of storage.  As a result, the volunteers (mostly retirees or fixed-income folks) who are helping distribute stuff periodically end up taking stuff home.  This means that they end up with a little more disposable income, and that ends up circulating in the community as well.

Offline mia h

Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #13 on: January 28, 2014, 01:30:36 PM »
I think I made it clear in the rest of my post that the most important part of charity is improving those in need of help.
I wasn't taking a cheap shot or anything, it's just that I've recently been forced to wade through Bentham, Mills & Kant; which is even less fun than it sounds. I think we can probably put down in the consequentialist column  :-)

Offline TorterrableTopic starter

Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #14 on: January 28, 2014, 01:42:51 PM »
So I've read through the discussion as best I could, and I'm trying to further it by proposing more conversation topics. This is partially because I'm not very good at typing out solid responses, and partially because...I want to know more. Consider this merely a survey of one facet of human nature.

However, Kythia brings up an interesting point. Consider the following:

In being charitable, is it necessary that you understand to what goal your charity is going towards? From what I've seen, many of your volunteer works (not to belittle them; I admire each and every one of you for what you do to help people) seem to aid, for a lack of better words, a "faceless mass". However, what if we gave them faces, but not necessarily the faces that you expect? What if that man who took your coat is using it to hide a gun to rob people? What if the person you just fed is going to go home and buy drugs? If you knew this were happening to each and every one of the people you helped (an impossibility, of course, but please bear with me), would you still volunteer at the soup kitchen or donate clothes? If another opportunity to help people that required more commitment appeared, such as working at a rehabilitation clinic, would you take it?

Additionally, consider marginal benefits in taking on more volunteers. New volunteers require training and overseeing to become effective and, no matter how big the volunteer group, at a certain point, the clashing of various people will end up causing a loss in production. With this knowledge in mind, some people still attempt to join one of these groups, even when others are available (this happens with a tutoring group on campus for me). Do you think these people still have genuine charity in mind, or are they more looking for something to make them feel better, to improve themselves, even if there is a cost to others?

Finally, when you go in to volunteer or donate, do you feel good? Do you consider that good feeling a side effect of volunteering, or do you volunteer to experience this feeling? While these may intertwine, is one of them stronger than the other?

Offline Kythia

  • Noooo-one Fights like Kythia no-one bites like Kythia
  • Dame
  • Enchanter
  • *
  • Join Date: Oct 2012
  • Gender: Female
  • No one chain smokes Marlboro lights like Kythia
  • My Role Play Preferences
  • View My Rolls
  • Referrals: 1
Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #15 on: January 28, 2014, 01:50:04 PM »
And you would be amazed at what some people will donate. Trash bags full of panties (really? Toss that shit in the trash.),

Yeah, this is what I was getting at.  Presumably the person who brought them in (instead of just selling them to creepy weirdos in Japan like I do) thought she was helping.  In fact, she was just creating more work.

Offline Valthazar

  • Writer ͏͏● Educator ● Gamer ● Roleplayer ● Debater ● Tech Connoisseur ● Gym Rat ● Procrastinator ● As they say, "A simple PM may lead to lifelong friendship" ▬▬▬▬
  • Suspended
  • Seducer
  • *
  • Join Date: Mar 2013
  • Location: United States
  • Gender: Male
  • Proceed and be bold. Embrace your insecurities.
  • My Role Play Preferences
  • View My Rolls
  • Referrals: 0
Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #16 on: January 28, 2014, 01:53:57 PM »
For me, it's just in my nature, makes me feel happy to be charitable to those in real need.  More than the empirical benefit itself, it is the intention to even help that means a lot to the recipients.

I donate winter clothes to the Salvation Army, and volunteer my time for a couple of local organizations.

For those in real need, knowing that other people care is far more important than what the charitable donation is.

Offline Kythia

  • Noooo-one Fights like Kythia no-one bites like Kythia
  • Dame
  • Enchanter
  • *
  • Join Date: Oct 2012
  • Gender: Female
  • No one chain smokes Marlboro lights like Kythia
  • My Role Play Preferences
  • View My Rolls
  • Referrals: 1
Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #17 on: January 28, 2014, 01:56:03 PM »
For those in real need, knowing that other people care is far more important than what the charitable donation is.

I'd question that.  If I'm starving to death, what I want is food.  Whether you care or not comes a very distant second place to whether you're giving me food or not.

Offline TorterrableTopic starter

Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #18 on: January 28, 2014, 01:58:44 PM »
I'd question that.  If I'm starving to death, what I want is food.  Whether you care or not comes a very distant second place to whether you're giving me food or not.

I agree with Kythia to an extent, depending on the need. Knowing other people care is great and might be the kick in the ass that I need to get my life on track, but thoughts only go so far. Thoughts are beautiful, but they do not replace material goods.

Offline Valthazar

  • Writer ͏͏● Educator ● Gamer ● Roleplayer ● Debater ● Tech Connoisseur ● Gym Rat ● Procrastinator ● As they say, "A simple PM may lead to lifelong friendship" ▬▬▬▬
  • Suspended
  • Seducer
  • *
  • Join Date: Mar 2013
  • Location: United States
  • Gender: Male
  • Proceed and be bold. Embrace your insecurities.
  • My Role Play Preferences
  • View My Rolls
  • Referrals: 0
Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #19 on: January 28, 2014, 02:04:53 PM »
I'd question that.  If I'm starving to death, what I want is food.  Whether you care or not comes a very distant second place to whether you're giving me food or not.

I know, which is why I said it is not a competition.  There's no requirement to donate.  Any donation is better than no donation.  While many charities do permit the recipients to show 'wish lists' for what they would like, there is no empirical requirement that can officially mandate what a donor gives, since that's the inherent nature of voluntary charitable donations.

Offline Moondazed

  • Hmm... plot or pleasure? Perhaps a bit of both...
  • Lady
  • Enchanter
  • *
  • Join Date: Mar 2006
  • Location: Virginia, US
  • Gender: Female
  • I'm a switch, name your pleasure...
  • My Role Play Preferences
  • View My Rolls
  • Referrals: 0
Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #20 on: January 28, 2014, 02:54:35 PM »
Or "Do as you would be done by" also known as the Golden Rule, taken right out of that there Bible.

That sentiment is a whole lot older than the Bible. :)

Offline Kythia

  • Noooo-one Fights like Kythia no-one bites like Kythia
  • Dame
  • Enchanter
  • *
  • Join Date: Oct 2012
  • Gender: Female
  • No one chain smokes Marlboro lights like Kythia
  • My Role Play Preferences
  • View My Rolls
  • Referrals: 1
Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #21 on: January 28, 2014, 03:15:33 PM »
That sentiment is a whole lot older than the Bible. :)

While that might be true, actually the earliest we have actual evidence for is in fact the Bible.  Leviticus 19:18 is the earliest written version.  Sure, other civilizations may have had it but they either didn't write it down or if they did we haven't found it, and other cultures have since found it independently.  But the earliest we can say with any certainty is the Bible.

Offline TorterrableTopic starter

Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #22 on: January 28, 2014, 03:28:57 PM »
Honestly? The idea of "do as your done by", in my opinion, is parallel with the idea of "an eye for an eye", which has roots in Hammurabi's first legal code, from the very cradle of civilization.

But that's not always a viable connection.

Offline Moondazed

  • Hmm... plot or pleasure? Perhaps a bit of both...
  • Lady
  • Enchanter
  • *
  • Join Date: Mar 2006
  • Location: Virginia, US
  • Gender: Female
  • I'm a switch, name your pleasure...
  • My Role Play Preferences
  • View My Rolls
  • Referrals: 0
Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #23 on: January 28, 2014, 03:32:12 PM »
Wikipedia's entry on the Golden Rule has copious footnotes that say otherwise, unless you're speaking of that exact wording.  Sorry, it's simply not true that the Bible is the first place that sentiment (which is the word I used on purpose) appeared.

Online Oniya

  • StoreHouse of Useless Trivia
  • Oracle
  • Carnite
  • *
  • Join Date: Sep 2008
  • Location: Just bouncing through. Hi! City of Roses, Pennsylvania
  • Gender: Female
  • One bad Motokifuka. Also cute and FLUFFY!
  • My Role Play Preferences
  • View My Rolls
  • Referrals: 3
Re: The Purpose of Charity
« Reply #24 on: January 28, 2014, 03:32:25 PM »
No - not 'do as you're done by'.  That implies that if someone is nasty to you, you should be nasty back (or 'an eye for an eye').  'Do as you would be done by' implies 'If I'm nice to others, they will hopefully be nice to me.  But if I'm nasty to others, they might be nasty back.'