Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Where the Heart Is

Hi everyone! I am YA author B A Binns , writer of contemporary and realistic fiction for teens. My tagline tells you what I am about - Stories of Real Boys Growing Into Real Men - and the people who love them. 

This month the topic is charity and giving.

We dream about people who are totally altruistic, but the reality is that all too often, charity begins at home, and then stays there. Fortunately, we don't all have the same definition of home. For me, home really is where my heart is. When I give, it's because my heart is involved.

When I was a child I was the picture of real altruism. Or maybe I was just tired of having to eat everything on my plate because my mother always recited the plight of the starving children on the other side of the world. I began sending my allowance to CARE ( at an early age. My motive may have been suspect, but I felt good that even my small amounts were helping some unknown kid on the other side of the ocean get their own plate to clear.

During my childhood, my family spent a time being homeless. Today I donate both money and volunteer time to Journey From Pads to Hope, an organization that provides services to the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless in suburban Cook County. My church is part of a network providing shelter to homeless men and women one night a week during the fall and winter, and I have volunteered to help serve food and care for participants.

My daughter was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at fourteen. As a result, I discovered a kinship with other parents dealing in similar situations. For me, giving to organizations that help families dealing with this almost invisible crisis ranks up there with giving at home.

These days I find that my giving journey has moved in a giant circle. When I was in my twenties I gave to Alzheimer’s organizations. I worried about the possibility of facing that problem in my own future and wanted to give money for research. Now that I’m getting older, I find I’m at the other end of the giving spectrum. My primary charities involve giving to help families of children who have birth defects.

And, I am proud to say that my daughter has begun on her own charity course. She was involved in several church sponsored crop walks to fight hunger during her teen years. And this even though I was careful to never force her to clear her plate or call on the ghosts of starving children across the globe. She figured out the need for herself.

My giving involves more than just money. Being retired means I have time, and having time means I can volunteer. Right now I have volunteered to be a mentor to a young summer intern in the publishing industry. (I think I have her believing my input is valuable!!) Mostly it about giving her business advice, a subject my years as a manager have taught me well.

I also give time to children's literature. I don't just write, I give my time and knowledge to to teachers, libraries, and librarians across the country where I talk with professionals about ways to reach out to young reluctant readers and start them on the paths of reading, a path that will enhance their future.

 I am also giving time to and whatever expertise I possess to WeNeedDiverseBooks (, a group working to increase the number, variety, and quality of books featuring diverse characters, locations and situations. One of my current roles involves helping with the group's first diversity festival. This festival is scheduled for July 2016 and will occur near DC. My role is to organize workshops, demonstrations and other activities for child and teen attendees. A year seems like a long time, but it's an entire conference so I need to finish this and get back into volunteer mode, picking speakers and performers for the big day.

You see, charity may begin at home, but HOME is as much the concepts I care about as it is my physical location. Yes, we must take care of ourselves and our families. But sometimes home includes people whose problems and suffering mirror our own. I don’t give to random charities, not even when they give me the spiel about the needy people. But I have suffered problems in my life, and I find my heart opening when the charity involves a pain I know something about.


Judith Ashley said...

I totally agree with you, B.A. My years working in social services (child and adult) as well as my own personal experiences have shown me "there but for the grace of God go I" in many situations.

I've thought for decades that if we put the amount of money we spending on the adult corrections and prison systems into funding sex education, pre-natal care, early childhood education on into the K - 12 school system and the mental health system, society would see a very positive change.

Fewer unwanted pregnancies, fewer children in foster care, fewer people needing public assistance to make ends meet, fewer children starting school who don't know the basics (count to ten, the alphabet, basic colors, etc.). We might even see fewer children with learning disabilities, ADHD, ADD, etc.

And wouldn't it be great if we closed numerous empty prisons and HAD to retrained probation, parole and corrections officers because there were no longer the jobs available? Our social service delivery system would look very different also!

I'm not so naive as to think all of society's problems would be solved but I do see the young people in programs such as Beading The Odds (my post 06/05) and other programs such as Kinship House and Free Arts Northwest as being products of their environment more than of their genetics. I had a young boy when I was working in child welfare who told me there was no point in going to school because he was going to McClaren (the juvenile boys prison in Oregon). His older brother was there, his father was at the Oregon State Prison, his uncle was at OSP, his mother was in his mind it was inevitable that was where he'd be-it's what happens to the people in his family.

If the charity tugs at my heart and I can see the benefit because of the work they do (more money to the cause than to administration for example), I'm on board.

Thanks for sharing your "Giving Journey".

Paty Jager said...

B.A., Your reasons for giving to the charities and your ongoing devotion to charitable work is admirable. You show the world people caring can make a difference. Thanks for a grounding post.

Lynn Lovegreen said...

Beautiful post, B. A. I enjoyed your diversity workshop, too!