Musings from George

A Short Random Walk Through Topics I Never Covered
January 18, 2014, 6:10 pm
Filed under: Charity, Nonprofit, Random walk, Uncategorized, Volunteering

Every so often I am notified that someone found and read my blog, which is a little like hearing from a high school friend after many years. My first reaction is “really? they must be horribly bored” and the second reaction is a twinge of guilt that I have not stayed in touch and indeed feel guilty that they had to take the first step because I am too self-involved to go back and check in with old friends. I know that I stay in touch with many more people than your average engineer, but I also wish I could see Nick and Katie more often and could squeeze in an adult play date with Mike and Michelle. There are about two dozen people on my “wish I could spend time with” list that I haven’t connected with in a year, and that just makes me sad. So, the random walk that was promised in the title… questions and topics that I think are worthy of discussion, even worthy of monologuing (watch The Incredibles for an awesome example from Jason Lee of monologuing). Herewith:

  • When is a white lie simply a lie? When are you shielding someone else from pain they don’t need to experience, and when are you just being a coward because you don’t want to tell the truth?
  • When is it wrong to invest in your own children, when there are others that are in much more need? When your elementary school PTA asks for a voluntary donation, if you don’t give are you a free-loader? If you give the same amount to a school across town in the poor neighborhood, is that an equivalence? Should you feel obliged to give to both?
  • When you are asked to keep a secret, what obligations come with that request? You may be thrust into a position of knowledge you did not see, which can put you in the uncomfortable position of  having to lie about your knowledge to keep that secret. Why should someone be empowered to pull you into their world?
  • Euthanasia and end of life decisions. Since most of us avoid hard decisions and hard realities, many of us end up in a terrible health care crisis late in life. When should the government (or some other power) be enabled to end someone’s life because there is no upside left (dementia, without family, in an unheated homestead house without plumbing… yes, it is real).
  • Money. If you have some, and people you love do not, how much should you share? When should it be a gift, and when a loan?
  • Alcoholism. Runs in may families (we famously have an alcoholic lumberjack in the family, which just makes Monty Python a MUST SEE for our generation), and is difficult to manage and almost impossible to stop. Yet it is easy to buy alcohol, parties are better with an Open Bar, and we accept the drunken idiots, sloppy drunks (“I love you man!”), and dangerous drunks (so many deserving DUIs, so few cops!) as part of society.

Let me know if you have written something insightful on any of these topics, and I promise to read it (caveat: no books, just blogs!) Let me know if you want to hear my perspective on any of these things. Today’s rant: volunteering and non-profits. I have volunteered my entire life, crossing many different organizations targeting education, homelessness, animal welfare, hunger, micro-lending, sports, international poverty and health conditions, I have given for breast cancer research, for rebuilding in the Philippines and  in Honduras, to Doctors Without Borders without restraints, to MIT and for stroke victim recovery. I have also volunteered many many hours as a coach and as board member for sports organizations. The challenge — almost all of the money comes from a few donors, and the same 10% of the people do all the volunteer work. If Karma is real, most people are negative. How does a modern Mother Teresa volunteer at the PTA *without* recognizing that the same few people do everything, and why don’t we have some obligation to give back? Our current approach enables freeloaders to skate (voluntary contributions are, of course, voluntary) and doesn’t give any advantage to those who do the work (the 10%). So why don’t those of us in the 10% just give up and stay home? Why do I keep coaching, and reffing, and writing checks? Maybe *I* am the stupid one… What do you do for others that they could do for themselves? When do you find yourself frustrated with your volunteer efforts (e.g. delivering presents through a charity to a family with a TV bigger than yours, because they filled out the forms…)? When have you STOPPED helping a charity because you took issue with something they did or didn’t do? That’s all for now. Let me know what to read, and what to write, that would be interesting to both of us. George