In the aftermath of the tragedy in Japan, plenty of heroes are emerging in the rubble. They're donating their time and their hard-earned money. But to me, the real heroes are the folks who are giving in private, away from the press releases and the media machine.
I revere the anonymous donors. The people who don't crave publicity or bright lights. Let's face it. Anyone can feel good about himself or herself by reading about the glory in the paper or on the Internet.
I am not putting them down. Anyone who contributes a million bucks here and there is doing a great serve, and we should feel grateful for the effort.
The people in Japan are suffering. Our hearts go out to them. We Americans remember all too well the massive upheaval that took place in New Orleans in 2006. We can understand human suffering. But aside from the dough, it is a rather empty gesture, to fork over all of those zeroes and then have your publicist-for-hire spin a yarn about what a great American you happen to be.
The great Americans are the people who give for the sake of giving. I have more respect for the average Joe or Jane who plunks down $10 to the Red Cross than the billionaire who puts out a news release about generosity.
There is a school of thought that it's productive to society to put out the word because it sparks other rich people to do the same. That's nonsense, of course. People should do the right thing, without prompting. And most of us do just that.
We don't put out press releases for two good reasons. First, we can't afford to hire a publicist. Then, more important, it never occurs to us in the first place. It would be a good idea, as well, to watch in awe the Japanese heroes, who are not worried about raising money or reputations. They want to save their country.
Jon Friedman writes the Media Web column for MarketWatch.com. Click here to read his latest column.
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