How do we decide when and how to help other people?

We’re all asked to donate to different causes daily.  Over the past month alone, I have been asked to give to Habitat for Humanity, The Nature Conservancy, Doctors Without Borders, The Smile Train, the local food pantry, the fraternal order of police, various alumni groups, public radio, and numerous online causes.  They just want my money.  The people who want my time and energy constitute a list equally as long, if not longer.

I am getting fatigued.  I feel like I definitely have to pick and choose which causes I donate to; what projects I give my time and energy to- I do not have infiinite resources in either department.  I have a family; I have a business; I am stressed like everyone else, and worried about the direction the Country and Economy are heading.

But the bottom line is this: I also have to take care of my own “needs” and maybe even a few “wants” and then I can spare some extra for your project.  I am sometimes foolish with both my time and my money, not always choosing based on “highest value or return” but based on things I care about.  I have ADHD so I often have my fingers in many projects, but if I am working on something, I intend to see it through.  If I help you out on your project or cause, it’s because I honestly believe you can have a positive impact on the world through what you’re doing.

I have no problem helping people out who need the assistance.  But I want them to have made the decision about how to solve their problem on their own before asking me for help, as well.  And then if help is offerred, I expect that it will be appreciated and not taken for granted in turn.

Earlier this year, a bunch of people helped me to help a mom in China running a school for autistic children- one of the few in all of China, trying to provide a lace for these kids to go once their schooling was completed, so they had a future.  The response was overwhelming, and we sent over $1,500 to Ma Chen in China as a result.  Ma Chen wrote and told me about what the gift meant to her and her school- but the most important part to me was that Moms in the US were able to help Moms in China out of the goodness of their hearts.

Some people on the internet start Chip-ins, asking friends, family and complete strangers to help them pay for things like trips to conferences or other “wants” not “needs”.  I think we have to triage out when we ask others for help, and when we just have to be industrious little bunnies and save the money until we can afford “x”.  Or finance it.  Or ask your folks for a loan.  Or have a bake sale or run a lemonade stand or take a second job.  Heck- I even require my silly little new media business to be budget neutral, and took a tutoring job to pay for my “habit” and all the accessories it requires.

So what I am asking, in part because I am asked to help out so very many people, is to turn to your community for financial support as the very last resort.  Be fiscally and financially responsible.  If you have to charge it, do so.  Save the money you need first.  Do whatever you can to solve your problem on your own before asking your friends to solve it for you.  And then, I am more than happy to help you out with a very happy and joyous heart.