As I sit here completing my charitable donations for 2017, I contemplate what my gifts will do for those in need. It is said Canadians are “good givers,” yet charities need more support than they are getting.
Many Canadians who can afford to give charity are not giving anything near what they can. A couple of examples; two years ago I was talking to a couple with raised children who make a combined $175,000 per year. I asked them if they gave to charity. They told me yes, about $1,000 per year. I did not comment. They were “well off,” had little debt but gave less than six-tenths of one per cent of their gross income to charity. Obviously they could give more. A couple of months later I was in conversation with a widow who had a small pension, CPP, OAS, and her total income approximately $30,000 per year. I asked if she gave to charity and she proudly said, “Yes, doesn’t everybody?” I asked how much she gives. She said just under $1,000 per year, which was just over three per cent of her gross income, five times what the other couple was giving — a staggering amount considering her income. I asked how she could do this and was told her and her husband had always given to charities and even after his death she continued to give to those who were less fortunate and made do with the rest. She believed it was her duty to help those less fortunate. What an attitude!
It’s not how much I accumulate in my life, it’s have I made the world a better place during my life?
How is it possible that one with so little was able to give five times as much as those with substantially more? If most of us looked at what we have and what we give to charity, we could all probably give more.
If you have a decent income or good pension, think of those less fortunate, and if you really want to appreciate how well off you are, consider driving patients to the cancer clinic, deliver meals on wheels, or work at a community food bank. You will soon see how fortunate you are. There are many people who would change places with you in a heartbeat.
Many wealthy individuals and families are generous and give significant amounts to charities year after year. Some people may say, “Yes but they can afford to do this,” and that is a fact. But they do it. Most of this group does it with little or no fanfare. Unfortunately, too many wealthy people and families are all about “me” — “look what I’ve got” — whether that is a new car, a bigger house or whatever, it’s all about what I have and how I can impress others. Many of this group donate minuscule amounts to charity. They talk a good game but its all smoke and mirrors; you know who they are.
The other day I heard a story on CNN which told of a Leonardo da Vinci painting that was purchased for $400 million — an obscene amount for a painting to just hang on a wall. It’s ludicrous; how is it possible a painting can demand that price? I have no objection to the wealthy owning expensive things, but I think about what could have been done with that amount of money through charitable giving. They could have set up a charitable trust where the income of the charitable trust supported numerous charities, a much better use of the money. If invested in a “balanced portfolio,” it should make between four per cent and six per cent most years in a positive market. A $400 million charitable trust would generate close to $16 million per year to distribute to numerous charities on an annual basis. How can you justify this purchase when the income produced could help so many needy people and families?
It’s not how much I accumulate in my life, it’s have I made the world a better place during my life? Charities should be on our minds all year, but especially at Christmas. As you read this, please think of those less fortunate and give generously to the charities of your choice.
Merry Christmas to all!