Giving 'til it hurts
NPR reports on a study that confirms what many of us already felt, that poor people are more charitable, in how they think about community and as a percentage of what they have. So what's going on here? I have some ideas, not all of which could possibly be correct at the same time, and I'm even more curious about the ideas I haven't thought of myself.
Not surprisingly, "religion" is cited as a motivator for charitable behavior, but from what I can tell, that generic term as applied in the studies cited actually means "Christian religion" instead. It's understandable that researchers focus their efforts on the largest groups, but the rest of us must read between the lines.
My theories about wealth and charity include:
- Math. Wealthy people make larger donations because they have more money. Some of them give millions. They recognize that they can give oodles and still be more comfortable than they would be if they were middle class, and have decided that they are giving enough.
- Fear. Accumulation of wealthy is driven by the scarcity mindset, the fear of being without. This does not lend itself to giving willingly, as the tight fist of fear opens only grudgingly.
- Connection. The more money we have, as the study suggests, the more we can pay people to provide goods and services, leading to business, not personal, relationships. Business does not beget compassion.
- Gratitude. Living closer to the poverty line makes a person more grateful for small blessings.
I'd very much like to do so field research, preferably as a participant-observer, among the fabulously wealthy. Donations towards that project are cheerfully accepted. While I'm working on that funding proposal, I will instead collect evidence from my willing readers.
Does your Pagan path specifically encourage charity? What factors contribute to your decisions about giving?