While answering a phone call outside of The Nines in Ithaca, NY, I saw some cash on the sidewalk. I looked around and didn't see anyone looking for it so I picked it up. When I counted the cash later, it came out to $26, a pretty darn good find! Like anyone else, I thought about what I could do with the money. Perhaps put it towards paying for that new piece of music gear I've been wanting, or maybe putting it towards the band gas money. Then I was hit with guilt.
The $26 clearly wasn't mine to begin with. Someone lost that money. Hopefully, it's not cash they desperately needed. As much as I would've liked some extra spending money (you know, starving musician and all), I knew it could be better served going to others who needed it more.
I'm always weary about throwing money to charity just to feel good about myself. The amount of corruption and misguided funding in charity organizations is disheartening. However, I also know that unless I do what I can to live a virtuous life, I cannot expect others to do the same. Here, I was given donation via circumstance. I could blow it on upgrades for my guitar, a nice dinner, a gift for a friend, (obviously, I choose giant, death laser) or I can instead use that money toward helping a public university pay for campus activities, aiding a local, family-owned charity to providing basic living goods for families struck by disasters, or giving to a nearby no-kill animal shelter so they can continue operations.
Ever since I was little, I told myself that once I can afford to, I would donate to worthy causes. I recently realized that "once I can afford to" is the trapping. As a self-centered being, there's always something I want to buy. The only way for someone like me to feel like I have money to give away is to do what I've been doing to save for retirement: reserve a portion of my paychecks for a designated purpose.
This month has been a difficult one for me financially, and I technically can't afford to be donating, but I'm fortunate enough to have a job that I love and family and friends who enrich my life. I'm in mostly good health (though I could certainly exercise more and cut back on the sweets), have a roof over my head, and eat well. I can't reasonably ask for much more than that.
The checks are going out today to my chosen recipients. $26 and then some.