In an effort to gather all my writing in one place, I’ve been posting articles that originally appeared elsewhere. This piece was published by the The Morning News in 2003.
You are a good person. You feel bad when other people are sad; you try not to laugh when someone trips; you’re fond of puppies.
Now, maybe you’re not rolling in cash. Most of us have some debt, and we’re all trying to build our savings. But you’ve got 10 bucks to spare, and there’s some disturbing shit going down in the world. Perhaps you’ve heard.
The surprisingly good people—the ones who are feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and pulling small children out of harm’s way—they could probably use that 10 bucks more constructively than we could. Give it up, and bask in the warm glow of self-satisfaction.
* * *
1. Southern Poverty Law Center started out as a small civil rights law firm in Montgomery, Alabama, and grew into a well-known center for tolerance. They sponsor tolerance-education programs, fight white supremacists in court, and track hate groups throughout the U.S.
Ten bucks in their pockets: fight evil
Ten bucks in our pockets: wineglass charms
2. The Carter Center is a non-partisan organization that works to alleviate human suffering, and they have one of the least-annoying mission statements I’ve ever seen. Among other points, they pledge not to ‘duplicate the effective efforts of others’ and to ‘[address] difficult problems and [recognize] the possibility of failure as an acceptable risk.’ They’re for peace, world health, and democracy. Coincidentally, I’m also a big fan of those things.
Ten bucks in their pockets: thwart corruption, fight social inequities in the Western Hemisphere
Ten bucks in our pockets: ticket to The Green Hornet 3D
3. Heifer International gives an animal to a needy family to help feed them or sustain the family economically—a cow, pig, duck, buffalo, some bees, you name it. The family signs a contract saying they’ll give the first female offspring of their animal to another hungry family. They also agree to teach their neighbors how to care for the animal.
Ten bucks in their pockets: milk and honey for hungry people
Ten bucks in our pockets: olive-oil mister
4. Habitat for Humanity finds a family that needs a house, helps them build it, and then lets them purchase the house at cost with no interest paid on the mortgage.
Ten bucks in their pockets: build a house every 26 minutes
Ten bucks in our pockets: another bud vase
5. Mine Action Group is dedicated to solving the problems caused by leftover landmines and unexploded bombs. Problems like how those things tend to blow up at hideously inconvenient times. The group locates, clears, and destroys leftover weapons so those weapons don’t destroy the lives of children who accidentally play too close.
Ten bucks in their pockets: protect lives
Ten bucks in our pockets: Lego cufflinks
6. Wings for Kids is an after-school program for 240 elementary-school kids in South Carolina. The organization’s focus is on ‘emotional competence,’ meaning they teach the kids empathy, self-awareness, and how to negotiate relationships and manage their emotions. If we give them some money, maybe they’ll let all of us in.
Ten bucks in their pockets: help little kids develop emotional intellect
Ten bucks in our pockets: new eye shadow!
7. Helping Hands trains capuchin monkeys to help quadriplegic people in their daily lives. I am not making this up. We’re talking about real, live trained helper monkeys. The monkeys feed people, pick up things they’ve dropped, operate lights, and generally provide a pair of hands and some company. All this, plus they’re friendly little monkeys!
Ten bucks in their pockets: monkey helpers!
Ten bucks in our pockets: chili-cheese poppers
8. WaterAid provides safe water and basic sanitation to 15 countries in Africa and Asia. Thanks to them, some of the poorest women and children in the world no longer have to walk miles for water, freeing up time for them to generate income or attend school. WaterAid also builds latrines in communities with open sewage systems.
Ten bucks in their pockets: safe drinking water
Ten bucks in our pockets: Cranberry Chutney scented candle
9. ProLiteracy Worldwide teaches adults how to read. They offer literacy programs and publications that are distributed to schools and libraries all over the world. Their work touches 45 developing countries and the United States.
Ten bucks in their pockets: teach 350,000 people how to read in a year
Ten bucks in our pockets: Girls Gone Wild: Spring Break III
10. Big Brothers Big Sisters provides one-on-one mentoring for at-risk kids from ages 5 to 18. This greatly decreases the odds of them skipping school, using illegal drugs, and generally becoming little punks. It’s the oldest and largest mentoring program in the United States.
Ten bucks in their pockets: friendship for 200,000 kids
Ten bucks in our pockets: heart-shaped pancake molds