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Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Giving Back: Saving starfish since 1995.

Last Friday, the lovely Amber West called for acts of kindness. She asked what people would be willing to give up to support a good cause. Being a sucker for do-good'ing, I decided to do a follow up to her inspired post. Please spread the word and join us!

I cannot pinpoint the exact moment when I got the idea that people should give more than take. Maybe it was around the time when I was 8. I used to help around the house, entertain the dogs, and feed forest animals who looked skinny. I liked to give. In the eyes of an 8-year-old giving is straightforward too. It’s the most logical thing to do… alas, as we grow up, we sometimes lose that childish perspective.

So we learn to take more than we are willing to give. Think about it: would we have a devastating economic crisis in the world if we could live in moderation and religiously help other more fortunate than ourselves? Should we care that there are children in Africa dying of starvation every day when ours are safely tucked in their beds?

According to the Think Quest project, about 15 children die of starvation every year. Now that’s a frightening picture! What kind of future do we have without our children? Granted, many children lie safe and fattened in their beds, which is as it should be. But all it takes to make sure all children have that is to donate something you don’t need.

I’m not even talking money here! Think about all the stuff you’ve accumulated throughout the years. Why do you need that old lamp? The old toys are lying around in the basement. And what about the books you never read and never will? Unless you’re stocking up for a master library, you could donate your books to charity today!

The point of charities is to make the world better by following a chain of paying forward. There are two currencies: money and kindness. You don’t just give to someone who’s in need, but you also feel good about it. I’m a firm believer in good karma and I’m stocking it up for dark days.

Whether you do charity for selfless or selfish reasons, it’s all the same: the end result matters.

What do I donate to? I donate my old stuff: books, clothes, and trinkets to Oxfam GB. The proceedings go to developing countries where poverty takes its toll on the people. It’s not just old books and clothes in dusty shops selling for cheap prices. It’s about investing in things that matter: building huts, helping when disaster strikes, and fighting for a better future. I haven’t volunteered at the shops yet, but I’ve donated on a regular basis.

Remember, any help can make a small difference in the world. Small changes may seem inconsequential, but in the long term, they make all the difference.

To illustrate my point, I’ll share my favourite inspirational story with you. It has been re-written over time but the jist is all the same. I borrowed this version from here.

The Starfish Story
Original Story by: Loren Eisley

One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed
a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean.
Approaching the boy, he asked, What are you doing?

The youth replied, Throwing starfish back into the ocean. 
The surf is up and the tide is going out.
  If I dont throw them back, theyll die.

Son, the man said, dont you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You cant make a difference!

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish,
and threw it back into the surf.  Then, smiling at the man, he said
“I made a difference for that one.”

Hand me that tissue please! (baby-wallpapers)

So there you go. You can still make a difference even if you think it’s too miniscule to matter. By giving up my old things, I am not only letting go of extra baggage, but I am also helping… someone… somewhere… to do something they normally wouldn’t be able to do.

I’m throwing back a starfish. Please join me and find your starfish. 

So what are you giving up? What would you be willing to live without?  For more suggestions on how to give back, see Amber’s post.