The other day I took one of my rare trips to the bottom of the pile of paper on my desk. As I sorted through documents, and my recycle bin filled up, I observed two distinct categories of discards. One was junk mail. The other was charities soliciting donations.
I had no qualms, of course, about pitching the pizza flyers or scrapping the brochures from roofing companies. But what’s absurd is the twinge of guilt I felt for every envelope I tossed that happened to have a return address with the word “foundation” in it. As I rejected one appeal after the other, I felt contrite.
The reason it’s absurd is that no one could be reasonably expected to donate to every charitable cause that comes asking around this time of year. In that one afternoon I reviewed requests from a poverty relief agency, a disability support organization, three hospital foundations (including one for sick kids – what kind of brute am I to say no to sick kids?), an emergency information service, even my own alma mater. All very good causes, certainly.
I’ve already made at least six donations to non-profit groups in this month alone. And I’m not independently wealthy – not yet, anyway. So why, then, did I feel like a heel as I fed all these entreaties straight into my blue box?
Maybe it’s like my neighbour’s mom said to me later that same day. We were discussing the fact that most of the people we know truly want to be helpful to others. “We probably should do more, though,” she remarked. This while she was already going out of her way to drive my daughter and me to the subway station so we wouldn’t have to shiver at the bus stop (her idea). So why was she, like the rest of us, being so hard on herself?
We have to learn to let go of the guilt. I don’t think anyone should feel inadequate just because you aren’t walking in Mother Teresa’s sandals. Most of the time you’re doing the best you can. And if it so happens that you choose a spa day instead of spending your last forty bucks to help sick kids, you probably shouldn’t beat yourself up about it. For one thing, you won’t enjoy your spa day half as much.
Do you agree? Do you think we should feel better about the good that we do, and stop feeling so guilty for the good that we don’t?