07-14-18 Cassandra O’Leary

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Charity Begins at Home

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. 

Why should charity begin at home?

Because involving family in the act of giving, sharing your concerns for others with loved ones and friends, helps develop their entropy muscles and makes charity more personal. It's pretty easy to toss money in a tin cup and walk away feeling uplifted because you "gave at the office."

What's hard is adopting a charitable outlook.

It helps if you start young.

Some of my most vivid childhood memories revolve around giving. My mother  told me all about the starving kids in China over and over.  I never fully understood why that meant I needed to finish everything on my plate. Wouldn't it be more sensible  to put that food in a box and ship it to those kids?

I was logical, even at an early age.

That logic evolved. Once I got older I found CARE (http://www.care.org/), an organization that feeds the hungry and works to empower women and girls around the world. Even as a child that last part was extra important to me. We girls needed to help each other.

 So, instead of putting my dinner in a box, I began saving my coins, quarters, dimes, even pennies. I remember taping my coins to little pieces of cardboard and sliding that in an envelope so they would rattle around when it went to the organization through the mail. Make no mistake, my family was poor. When the ice cream truck rolled through the neighborhood we didn't even bother begging our parents for money for a cone, we knew what the answer would be. But I also knew there were people worse off than me, so I saved and salvaged coins for them.

Let's just say I'm a little more sophisticated now.  I still give to CARE and the Salvation Army (http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/) and I made a sizeable donation to Comic relief and Red Nose Day (
http://rednoseday.org/)  last month.  But I also  like doing things that require a personal touch form me, the giver. Charity isn't always about dollars and cents. 

A few years ago when I judged the Chicago Public Schools Science Fair (I've been a judge for 30 years now, and I have a plaque to show for it) I decided to give as well. I contacted the fair and set up a special award, the B A Binns award. I didn't want to call it charity. It was listed as an award for a project for a college bound senior.  I know exactly how expensive college is, and that many times a little extra money can work wonders for a kid on scholarship or one whose parents have to struggle to send them. The best part, I got to review the students' exhibits myself and was able to pick the experiment that resonated with me. Then I got to hand over the check.

Actually, that wasn't the best part. The real shining moment came a few weeks later when I received a letter from the student winner. The future scientist thanked me, telling me just how much that extra money meant to her college hopes.

You know, I think I will offer another award next year.

Charity isn't just about giving money. Acts are just as important, often more so.  And when I can involve my family as well, bonus points. Because children care too.

That's why my daughter and I have spent time together  assisting at our Church's PADS nights. PADS stands for Public Action to Deliver Shelter to homeless individuals and families. Although I have long since left my days of poverty behind and now live in a relatively affluent suburb, the homeless are all around us. Many of them the working poor, coming to PADS for a bed after a long day of working at a minimum wage job that does not pay enough for them to manage rent.  My daughter would cook and serve food, and even help clean up afterwards, things I could not get her to do at home without a struggle. But when helping others she worked with a smile. After the meal ended we often sat around with people, talking to them about their day, listening to their struggles.

My daughter and I have also participated in the annual Crop Walk (https://www.crophungerwalk.org/) to raise money, donations for, and awareness of the homeless in our supposedly affluent community. 

Some of my neighbors who have never experienced poverty don't even them. Many would like to pretend they don't exist, or believe that throwing a few dollars their way is enough. Giving money is one thing. Giving time, letting people see that you care enough to roll up your sleeves and try to help, brings things to a whole new level for both the giver and the receiver.

Whether you have money, or time, or just a desire to help, there are a zillion ways we can do something for others, and in so doing
  • add fulfillment to our own lives
  • strengthen the bonds of family and friendship
See, charity is a wonderful thing, especially if you begin at home.


Mindy Hardwick said...

Thanks for sharing all the ways you give! I loved the science fair story. I give a creative writing scholarship at my local high school and love reading the applications, choosing one that resonates and then giving the scholarship at a special night for seniors.

Sarah Raplee said...

Your post is both comforting & inspiring. My husband and I met as teens volunteering for the American Freedom From Hunger Foundation. We continued to find ways to volunteer that included our children as they grew up.

Guess it's time to include the grandkids!

Judith Ashley said...

I remember saving my allowance ($.10 a week) to send to the Red Cross to help the people in Hungary when the Russians invaded. Currently I have three local charities that provide services to at-risk youth I support. Kudos to you for living your values.


PS: The time you spend listening and talking with people, seeing them and bearing witness to their lives is critical. So much more important in many ways than a financial donation.

B A Binns said...

We should talk. I've actually been thinking about doing a writing scholarship to high school kids. Maybe you can share some set up tips.