Tuesday, May 06, 2008

People always ask. . .

It happens everywhere I go.

In countless ways and in all sorts of circumstances, good-hearted people ask me again and again, "Larry, what can I do to help?"

More and more, I find myself responding with a very simple and clear reply: "If you really want to make a difference, give me money, and do so on a regular, planned basis."

People don't expect that response, but I feel it is appropriate.

Most who ask me how they can help have money, many have quite a bit of money.

Usually, folks look to me to figure out how they can have a hands-on experience, and we are glad to make those attempts. And, we will continue doing so.

But, the best thing people with money can do to help us is give us money.

For many, making money, amassing capital is a gift, a talent. Not to say it is their only talent, but it is clear that it is a fundamental gift.

Years ago, one of my dearest friends who served on our advisory board at the time complained of his frustration with trying to help me. He worked hard at numerous "hands-on" jobs.

He attended countless meetings, which he hated!

Finally, in a very honest conversation, I just told him, "Here's what I need you to do. Go back to work. Pray for us. Make all the money you can. Then, give me all you can."

He seemed relieved by my counsel. He reminds me of it still, though it was 11 years ago that we had "the talk."

It's a bit amusing when people say things to me like, "Well, you can't solve problems by simply throwing money at them!"


Frankly, I wouldn't know about that since I've never been caught in a "money storm" where lots of it was flying around inside my world. I'd love to test the theory though. Let's begin with someone stepping up and starting to throw!

The fact is, not everyone needs to come down to the inner city. Not everyone is needed. When Nehemiah had finished rebuilding the wall around the ancient city of Jerusalem, he had the people draw lots to determine which 10% would live inside the walls. The remainder had the freedom to live outside the walls in the freedom of the countryside. Not everyone was needed in the inner city. So it is today. There's just not room.

I visited a prominent non-profit organization in another city not long ago. The Director of Development told me that the walls in a certain area of their complex had been painted 15 times in the past year!

Come on. Can we get real here?

Don't get me wrong. Volunteers are great and we use lots of them.

But many, many people can really make a huge and lasting difference by simply funding that which they believe in.

People who say to me, "We want to do more than just give money," make me want to ask the question, "So, how much money are you currently giving?"

I suppose I've belabored the point long enough.

It takes money to feed the poor, house the homeless, treat the sick, educate the children and enhance workforce skills.

I need your dollars to get the job done.

Please don't apologize if that's all you have to offer.

Most of the time it is the very best and most efficient thing you can do to really move things in the right direction for the most people.



Anonymous said...

I think that often when people use the term "throwing money" they instinctively are referring to perceived Government waste. I am not down playing the need for government help, but what you guys do is so efficient, and your post is spot on. The only thing that I would add is that often a hands on experience is an effective way to help people see the need and thus be motivated to give, at least that is what I have found with short term mission work.


Eric Livingston said...


I hear you man. I know our community organizations are so short on resources that they turn people away on a daily basis. More money would do a world of good.

Let me also say a couple of things about going beyond donations though. RC makes a good point that someone with a lot of resources can more easily be convicted to share those resources when they have a chance to dip out chili to 200 homeless people at lunch. Part of our nature is that we don't get involved in solving problems that we don't see. As much of a pain it is to truck volunteers to the other side of town, if they don't ever see the homeless problem in their neighborhoods, they are going to assume you're exaggerating it. They'll also assume that homeless people are just choosing to be lazy and do drugs so they can lie in the bed they've made. Exposure to underresourced people will convict us rich people that we are just lucky with our life circumstances and most homeless people are homeless because of uncontrollable circumstances (mental/physical disabilities, lack of lifetime education, and on and on the list goes.)

Secondly, and maybe more importantly, as disciples of Christ we have a deep calling for relational living. We need to not just buy people meals and provide them homes. We need to sit at the table and eat with them too. We need to invite them into our homes and accept the invitation to go into their homes. We need to learn to love one another which we can only do with facetime and contact.

Jesus told the rich man to sell his possessions and give the money to the poor. Then he said, "Come follow me." The second part is what we can't overlook. Jesus called the man to share his possessions and then to follow in his relationship building, life-changing, ways of love.

We definitely need to be more generous with CDM, our churches, the guy in need on the corner, and the people that we know who are struggling. We also need to build community with those people.

Larry James said...

Eric, all valid points. My experience tells me that many times those whom come also give to support the ongoing work. But, many don't. Money is a sore spot with lots of folks. Maybe I'm cynical, maybe I'm tired today; but money is often captured in a fortress and the ask for "hands on" doesn't mean the funds will follow and the funds are so very, very important if the good of the community is really the point. Thanks for your thoughtful post.

Anonymous said...

I think it's important not to elect a president who will raise taxes on the "rich." This will cause job loss, thus more poverty. Tax cuts create more jobs. If taxes are raised your contributions will probably go down. Obama wants to nearly double the capitol gains tax.

Anonymous said...

anon 7:35 pm, you gotta be kidding, right? The tax cuts under Bush got us where we are now--housing crisis, huge deficeits, net loss of jobs. . .tax cuts in the past can't be compared to these; radical, benefitting the rich and creating a gap between Ameicans that is immoral and systemic. Sorry, buddy, your days are numbered, thank God!

Anonymous said...

The last I heard, only 1/2 of 1% of mortgages ended in foreclosure. I don't consider that a crisis. The "crisis" was caused by lending money to people who couldn't qualify for normal loans. The so-called stimulus package is in fact a tax cut.

Anonymous said...

anon 8:59, not sure about your numbers, but remember the deal isn't over. . .today Fannie Mae reported a $2B loss in the first quarter on bad paper. . .more costs to the middle class; not the rich. . .unregulated greed is the hallmark of the current administration. Thankfully, a new day is on the way!

Justin said...

I love people who don't know what they are talking about, talking about how right they are about something far more complicated than either can imagine.

Its not a specific party that caused this crisis. Its our entire monetary system, and its politicians who think in the short term trying to get elected, and who have no idea what reprecussions come from their decisions.

Dig a little deeper, and you'll find that the housing crisis was caused by all our politicians and the federal reserve. Just do a little googling, and report your findings.