48A Vane Attempt

"Don't Need a Weatherman To Tell Which Way the Wind Blows" 

A Series of Innocuous Blogs for Vainglorious Edification.

Good Will Charity
December 13, 2008

On a recent visit to a charitable food bank we took the opportunity to offer our thanks to a few of those who volunteer.  It is gratifying to recognize even in the least of ways the work that is done daily, weekly, monthly by this army of  the selfless.  Without the hands of hundreds of thousands of volunteers at our synagogues, churches and charitable institutions, millions of lives would be worse for the wear.   In North America alone there are some 1.4 million registered charitable organizations benefiting the public good.  These include hospitals, museums, private schools, religious organizations, public radio and TV stations, thrift stores, soup kitchens and foundations.  In the United States the number of 501(c)(3) organizations has increased 53% in the last ten years.  Our gratitude extends not only to selfless volunteers but to those employed by charitable organizations as well.  These are people who have passed up the opportunity to make hefty incomes in favor of work for non-profits benefiting others.  In the U.S. non-profits employ 13 million people, more than the entire financial/banking sector and about ten percent of the nation’s economy.

While we were gratified to offer our thanks to the few volunteers we encounter - we were somewhat taken aback by their surprise.  Recognizing the efforts of volunteers and non-profit employees is not part of our regular social fabric.  Apparently there is little distinction made between those who give their efforts to charitable organizations and those who work for-profit sectors.  And at this time of year that doesn’t seem right.  While the number of non-profits grow in North America we hope that recognition of their staffs do also.  It seems far too often that good, charitable people give their time to causes for which there is little recognition.   While the developed world becomes more aware of their charitable responsibilities, it needs also to take time to give thanks.  Not only for what they have, but for those who selflessly provide for others.  It is not enough to donate money to assuage one’s guilt.  It is not enough to volunteer at holiday time or occasionally at the community center.  It is also important to take the briefest moment to tell someone somewhere who is giving to others - thank you.  Because in the depths of our nature we suspect that an expression of gratitude is a force of change as great as dollars or buildings or proclamations.   To recognize the work of the charitable is to empower the work of charity.

Even in the hyperactive climate of fear that inundates us now there is a an ever-available respite.  It is cost-free, unobtrusive, accessible to all.  It takes nothing more than stopping by one of the millions of organizations of good will to offer a simple thanks.  While the mirage of eco-collapse radiates from our television screen and the print media wallows in catastrophe, there is a steady drumbeat of goodness behind the spectacle.  It is the rhythm of generosity coming from legions of low-profile, caring people the world over.  They are the foot soldiers of charity who on a daily basis look poverty and misery in the face and stare it down.  They rarely ask for recognition.  They are at their stations five, six and seven days a week standing ready to lend a hand.  It is an army of good people and though they expect very little, we believe they deserve more.  And so, at the risk of punditry, we humbly ask those who read these words to give pause this season.  We ask that you take the time to pass a word of thanks to a neighborhood volunteer.  Your words and the power that give them meaning can lift the loneliest of hearts and the most despondent of souls.  Your gratitude is more powerful still.  Gratitude is our opportunity to give back to those who are already giving back.   It is a fitting task at this time of year.  One that returns the meaning of charity to the unsung steadfast, who regularly act charitably on our behalf. 

Et in terra pax.