Like many people, I’ve been thinking a great deal about money recently. I’m sad when I learn that friends and family have lost their jobs due to this struggling economy. I worry that my own small household might become a victim of these difficult times. I’m afraid that my meager retirement income, to which I should one day be entitled, may soon evaporate.
I’m baffled when the “experts” recommend that we save our money by dining out less often, stop using the dry cleaners, forego regular dog groomer visits and otherwise give up luxury or non-essential purchases. I wonder how those folks who never use hard-earned dollars on this type spending can find ways to save? And what about those who are accustomed to a high life? Does depression set in if a new pair of $300 shoes must stay on the shelf at the local boutique or if that vacation home purchase is postponed another year?
It seems the poor economic climate affects everyone – individuals, businesses, governments and, most especially, non-profit organizations. I mention non-profits because the third sector happens to be my field. I am resource development director –the person largely responsible for generating operating dollars – for a medium-sized non-profit agency. Thus, I’ve been thinking a great deal about money recently.
One might imagine that my outlook is dim. Corporate, foundation and individual donations are down in general. When asked, the majority of potential donors will point to tough economic times as the reason for not giving to charity, even though it is during such times that charities – and especially those people served by charities – need help the most. Having said all that, I am not disheartened. But what encourages my optimism?
During a recent charity fund-raising event guests were asked to make a gift or pledge. Suggested donation amounts ranged from $10 to $1,000. Proceeds from this particular request exceeded the anticipated goal by 300 percent. As might be expected, everyone involved in the fund-raiser celebrated this success, which generated several more gifts than expected in the $500 to $1,000 range . While the favorable outcome of this fund-raising effort is encouraging, it is not the source of my hope.
My faith that goodwill and compassion live on even during hard times comes from one single gift received during that fund-raising event. The gift was two crinkled dollar bills. The gift – gem-clipped to a pledge card – was anonymous, but the donor took the time to complete the card by hand-writing $2.00 in the amount blank. Unlike the poor widow in the Bible (Luke 21: 1-4), the small sum was probably not the donor’s entire fortune, nevertheless the gift was significant in the same manner as the widow’s mite. Most likely, two dollars was all the cash the donor had that day in her purse, yet she gave it wholeheartedly.
It is this lesson of the anonymous two dollar gift that reminds me that the essence of compassion, kindness and benevolence cannot be extinguished by greed, poverty or even a failing financial system. And I am reminded that, it is not the amount which one gives that matters, but the spirit in which the gift is given.