Wednesday, June 07, 2006

LEss than a dollar a day! (Newspaper Column)

What can 90 cents a day get you these days? Not a cup of coffee. Not a can of pop. 90 cents doesn’t do much does it? Well only 90 cents a day ($325 a year) in charitable giving would put you in the top 25% of donors in Canada according to Statistics Canada. (for more details see this article)

Now maybe it is just me but I find that number very disheartening. Three-quarters of the Canadians who gave to charity in 2004, and in fact only 85% of Canadians 15 and over gave to charity, gave less than 90 cents a day. To me that says a lot about our willingness to share, about our willingness to help each other.

A central belief within Judaism, Christianity and Islam is the idea that we have a responsibility to share out of our richness. And for the vast majority of us 90 cents a day is peanuts. It is time that we took a serious look at what we do with what we have. It is time that we challenged ourselves and each other to do better.

The reality is that in many places people would honestly consider $325 a year to be exceptionally generous. But according to the 2001 census data average family income in Atikokan was $50 000. In our Judeo-Christian roots we find the idea of the tithe, 10% off the top. That would be $5000 – more than 10 times $325. Even allowing for a tithe on Net (deducting an overly hefty 30% for Income taxes, CPP and EI) it would be $ 3 500. It seems we have a long way to go.

Part of the problem may well be that we don’t realize how much we have to share. We easily buy into the notion that we don’t have enough therefore we don’t have to share. But my worry is that part of the problem is that we are losing that imperative to care for our neighbour. I worry that we rely on others (or the government) to do it so that we don’t have to.

The prophet Micah asks “What does the Lord require of us?” The answer? Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with God. The prophets Amos and Isaiah yell against people who have confused “right worship” with being God’s people. Jesus reminds us that in God’s sight care for people comes before following rules and commandments.

In the end we each know what we have. In the end we are the ones who choose what we can afford – it is rarely chosen for us, despite what we would like to believe. In the end it is up to us to choose how best to share what we have. As for me and my house, a dollar a day is not nearly enough. What choice will you make?

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