You’d have to be in a coma to not know that we’re all having financial problems because of irresponsible borrowing and lending by individuals and corporations.
Most people are tightening their belts, dining out less, seeing fewer movies, and generally trying to budget their expenses better while we dig our way out of this economic hole.
This is not the time, however, to cut out real, honest, charitable giving. I’m not talking about giving money to groups with large overheads, or doling handouts to irresponsible relatives and friends who have been mooching off you for way too long.
I do mean that you shouldn’t stop helping those in more need than you.
There is an old Rabbinic story (I think both the rabbi and the story are old) about a rich man who walked the same road to his successful business, hesitating each day at the same corner to toss a few shekels to an old, crippled beggar. He did this day in and day out for years, rain or shine.
Sadly, his business started to decline as people’s tastes changed and newer, more innovative merchandise became available. The man did not go bankrupt, but he no longer was so very rich.
One fine day, as the once-wealthy man walked his usual route to work, he didn’t stop to toss a few shekels to the old, crippled beggar.
The beggar called out to him. “Sir, didn’t you forget something?”
“No, I’m sorry,” The man responded. “I’m just not doing as well and can’t easily afford to give you shekels as I once did.”
The beggar quickly replied. “Yes, I understand you don’t have as much. But my needs haven’t changed.”
Whenever I tell this story, the reaction I usually get is, “What a selfish beggar!”
But that’s not the real message of this story. The message is that our continuous concern about the well-being of others less fortunate than ourselves -- those souls who are needy through no fault of their own -- is a measure of our character.
This is why stories of people in concentration camps giving bits of food to others are so remarkable and inspiring. The human spirit is elevated by giving and caring, even when the physical realities are challenging or appalling.
I have been associated with Operation Family Fund (operationfamilyfund.org) for several years, raising over a million dollars in grants to families of our fallen or severely injured military who have fought in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Their needs have not diminished as the national financial crisis has evolved -- in fact, their needs have increased with potential home foreclosures, car repossessions, travel demands to hospitals, medical equipment necessary for rehabilitation and so much more.
I became associated with Operation Family Fund for two very important reasons: First, it has no overhead; every single penny of donations goes directly to the families in need, 100 percent. Second, my son is a member of the volunteer armed forces and I feel that, if you’re the parent of anyone in the military, then you are the mommy or daddy of everybody in the military. I wanted to help the families whose members sacrifice greatly for our country.
It’s not just the soldiers and sailors facing hardships, either. Military families sacrifice as well. They don’t live on much, often have to travel a lot to keep their families together, and they have to bear long deployments, not knowing if they will ever see their loved ones again.
I have raised money for Operation Family Fund in a number of ways, including creating and hand-crafting jewelry for sale on my Web site (www.drlaura.com), organizing motorcycle rallies, putting on One-Woman-Theatrical Shows, throwing a huge dance party at Disneyland, and bringing the organization’s work to the attention of the public.
I want to stress that 100 percent of donations make their way to those military families in need - that is most unusual for any charity, much less charities for the military.
This holiday season remember: Our military families need you!
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