When I read The Life You Can Save by the philosopher Peter Singer, it changed my behaviour. That’s the power of writing.
Singer argues that the majority of us in Western societies can give away half our income and not suffer. Sure, we may have to give up three coffees a day or the biggest widescreen TV available, but we still have food, water, a car, a house, and a hospital down the road if we get sick.
He argues that if there are any in need among us, the money we don’t need should go to them. Those who have more than enough have a moral responsibility to give to those who don’t have enough. I can’t argue with this.
It’s a principle in the bible, too. In the Old Testament, God taught the Israelites to collect only as much manna as they needed. In the New Testament, the early church gave what they had so there were no needy among them. And Jesus encouraged people to give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, and clothes to the naked.
I live a life of luxury and excess. There’s nothing wrong with appreciating and enjoying what we have, but there’s something wrong with greed at the expense of others.
I believe we have a responsibility to give to those who don’t have enough, and geographical distance or emotional disconnect don’t let us off the hook.
I’ve never been in need of anything, yet I spend most of money on me, feeding my pleasure and comfort. The truth is, I don’t give more because of selfishness.
Singer’s book gave me the prompt to change and to value others with my actions. Last year I decided to start small and simply give (to anything that resonated with me, not just to those in need) instead of doing nothing. I gave away at least $50 a month to a different charity, cause, or person. The goal is to increase the amount by at least a dollar each year until I’m giving away at least half my income regularly.
I wish I started doing this earlier. Sometimes it’s been a scrape to find the money, but it’s easier to find ways to give than I thought. It makes me want to find more ways to give more.
Would you join me in donating every month? It doesn’t matter how much, just start somewhere.