Friday, September 28, 2007

A helping hand.

There was an article in the papers last week on Chuck (Charles) Feeney, the billionaire philanthropist. Now, when somebody talks about billionaire philanthropists, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett comes to my mind. I’ve never even heard of this dude but his story is truly inspiring.

Okay, at this point, most of us are thinking that with billions, he can afford to be charitable but would you give MOST of it away? I’ve heard of Warren Buffett being thrifty but Feeney takes the cake. He’s one of those rare individuals that have their priorities so right that I can’t help but admire him. Here’s a guy that can have most material things but travels by bus (at least Buffett owns a car), flies coach, doesn't own a house and carries his documents in a plastic bag!

I find his humility and modesty very humbling, especially when we live in a world where between chasing the dollar and spending the dollar on having a good time, very little or no time is left for anything else. Sure, having a good time is everybody’s right but when we’re nearing the end of our lives, will we be happier knowing that we’ve lived a life based on indulgence or a life where we’ve helped make a difference in somebody’s life? One thing’s for sure, the memory of one of those choices lives on long after we’ve become one with the earth.

I have stopped believing that my donations to major charities would help since learning of the six figure salaries of some of the management staff of major charities and reading on how much is spent on administration. I realised how much of the donor’s money is not reaching the people that needs them most. Friends and acquaintances have defended the cause to pay top dollar to have the right people and facilities to organise initiatives but I fail to see the logic behind how more money goes into supporting the charity’s infrastructure than the cause itself. Of course, this is just me. I’m not trying to convert anyone or stir up a debate.

I now give money to my humble little church (when I attend) because they use the money to keep the place running and once in a while, I’ll send a cheque to the publishers of Our Daily Bread because I believe in their cause. When I receive gifts like chocolates from the office during Easter or Christmas, I usually give it to the homeless on my travels to and from the train station. Although these are not life changing gestures and I should really be doing much more by contributing my time towards a worthy cause, I do believe that we need to do something to help the needy. Anything.

More on Chuck Feeney

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