Sunday, July 26, 2015

Check Your... Charity!

Oh, the joys of finishing grad school are numerous, among which is counted to ability to return to semi-regular blogging!  Hurrah!

This post is a response to a few different things: today's Gospel (the multiplication of the loaves and fishes in John); introspection about the acts of charity I have and have not performed; and, most especially, a response to a Check Your Privilege quiz from Facebook that I took.

Regarding the quiz, I scored a 58 out of 100.  This score caused a large red block with white text that read, "YOU"RE QUITE PRIVILEGED" to appear on my screen.  My initial, emotional reaction was to disregard that assertion as biased and baseless, for how could an Internet quiz sum up the gifts I've been given and the accomplishments I've done in my life?  Then I reflected for a moment (and commiserated with a good friend who also took the quiz), and responded differently: I am, in fact, quite privileged. Indeed, I would call myself extraordinarily blessed.  Compared to all the other human beings who have lived upon or are currently living upon the Earth, I have a very, very good life.  I am grateful for it, and I recognize that I owe an impossibly great debt to so many men and women.  Out of the entirety of the human race, I am undoubtedly among the 1%, regardless of where I fall in the economic scale of modern American society.

But this post is not about privilege.  It is about charity.

The quiz has been stuck in the back of my mind, and hearing today's Gospel refined some proto-thoughts into an actual idea for me.  I take a dim view of social justice mongering that is not backed up by concrete acts of charity, so this post is a sort of challenge to anyone, including myself, who thinks that consciousness-raising and posting on social media are sufficient as acts of service to others, and that little or nothing more is needed (and yes, I appreciate the irony of that statement appearing in a blog post I have put on Facebook).  Jesus responded to the needs of the poor and suffering, and so should we.  So, rather than checking my privilege, I decided to check my charity.  I came up with the list of questions below and answered them honestly, and then I assessed my answers in light of the Gospel call to serve others.  The results were... illuminating, and disturbing.  In short, I need to love better.

I share the list with you in hopes that it will assist you in your own discernment, and hopefully motivate you to do what you can to help others.  It is arbitrary, it offers no set score, and it does not take into account what your responsibilities are to your family, friends, job, etc., but I believe it can serve as a catalyst for self-reflection and, maybe, actual works of charity.

Check Your Charity!

No official definition of 'act of charity' is offered for this quiz, but if you keep the idea of 'doing service or making sacrifices for the good of others with no expectation of return' in your mind, that will help.  This quiz does not differentiate between single people and married people, parents and children, young and old, rich and poor, man and woman, black and white, etc.  You should just honestly assess yourself in whatever state of life you are in, and think and pray about your 'results.'

1.) In the last year, what acts of charity have you personally done for your immediate and extended family members?

2.) In the last year, what acts of charity have you personally done for your friends?

3.) In the last year, what acts of charity have you personally done for your physical neighbors?  This question applies to where you live, work, learn, etc.

4.) In the last year, what acts of charity have you personally done for strangers who live in your town or city?

5.) In the last year, what acts of charity have you personally done for strangers who live outside your town or city but in your country?

6.) In the last year, what acts of charity have you personally done for strangers who live outside your country?

7.) In the last year, how much money have you donated to local charities that help people who live in your own town or city?

8.) In the last year, how much money have you donated to charities that help people who live outside your town or city but in your country?

9.) In the last year, how much money have you donated to charities that help people who live outside your country?

10.) In the last year, how much money have you donated to charity as a percentage of your income after taxes?  How many of those charities to which you donated directly served the poor and needy, and how many were educational, artistic, or political (etc.) charitable organizations?

11.) Do you know how many charities exist within a 10-mile-radius from where you live?

12.) In the last year, have you volunteered at any charities within a 10-mile-radius from where you live?

13.) In the last year, roughly how many hours have you spent performing acts of charity for strangers?  Compare that number with the number of hours you spent on social media, watching TV, playing video games, or performing similar activities.

14.) When was the last time you spoke to a stranger who you consider to be 'poor' or 'in need.'  What did you say?

15.) When was the last time you shared a gesture of goodwill (handshake, hug, pat on the back) with a stranger your consider to be 'poor' or 'in need.'

16.) Describe the thought process you use to decide whether or not someone is 'poor,' or 'in need.'

17.) When was the last time you comforted a family member who was suffering?

18.) When was the last time you comforted a friend who was suffering?

19.) When was the last time you comforted a colleague who was suffering?

20.) When was the last time you comforted a stranger who was suffering?

21.) How many loving, kind, and generous thoughts do you think about other people each day?

22.)  How many loving, kind, and generous words do you speak or write about other people each day?

23.) How many loving, kind, and generous actions do you do for other people each day?

24.) How many arrogant, jealous, and greedy thoughts do you think regarding other people each day?

25.) How many arrogant, jealous, and greedy words do you speak or write regarding other people each day?

26.) How many arrogant, jealous, and greedy actions do you do against other people each day?

27.) Do you believe you are doing the best you can to be charitable to others?  If so, how will you continue to  do so?  If not, how will you improve?


That's the list.  I have no doubt there are questions some people would add and questions some people would take away.  That's fine.  But my real hope is that people will add more acts of charity to their daily lives, and take away as many uncharitable thoughts, words, and deeds as they can.

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