Archives For Giving

I came in from mowing my yard Sunday evening, grabbed a beer, sat down, turned on the TV, scrolled through the channels, found “Secret Millionaire,” and decided to give it a try. This particular episode was about Jeff Usner, an “internet millionaire.”

From what I could gather from the show, Jeff was a workaholic. He built a business making money off the internet and then at the request of his friends, he started teaching other people how to make money off the internet. All this is very vague but supposedly what Jeff did made him rich.

His life wasn’t all peachy, though. His wife lost one of their babies. As you can imagine this was a tough experience in Jeff’s life. Then, Jeff suffered a stroke (Jeff was only 37 at the time of the taping). These two events made him realize that he needed to take a break and focus on something bigger than himself.

The point of the show is to take millionaires, take their identity, put them in a different environment and encourage them to find ways that they can help others. In this particular episode, Jeff helped out a woman who helped handicapped kids, a Hispanic man who taught kids how to box, and a woman who provided services for the elderly and food for the poor. Jeff was touched by each of these charities and ended up giving each one thousands of dollars of support ($40,000, $35,000, and $85,000, respectively, if my memory is correct).

There were two things I did not care for about the show:

1. Guilt about being rich. Jeff felt he needed to “give back.” I never really thought much about that phrase until I used it once here on AFM and Jack pointed out that it’s a bad phrase. Unless Jeff was stealing from people or being dishonest, there was no need for him to feel he needed to “give back.” I know, it’s just a phrase. But, it’s the wrong phrase. A more appropriate phrase should be something like, “Share my wealth” or “Help my fellow man.” Maybe I’m splitting hairs but it bugged me.

2. When it got to the point in the show where Jeff had to reveal himself, the dialogue went something like, “There’s something I didn’t share with you. I’m actually a very successful business man. In fact, I’m a millionaire…” The whole speil sounded a bit “braggy” to me. He could have said, “I’ve done well for myself and I want to share some of it with you…” I’m sure ABC had a script for him to follow.

Overall, I thought it was a good show. I do like charity and I do think it’s important to help others. The cool thing about this particular show (it’s the only episode I have seen) was that Jeff helped those who were helping other people. That’s what giving should be about, in my opinion.

I’m reading Burton Folsom, Jr.’s book, *.

Very interesting!

Why? Because all I ever remember hearing about FDR was how he moved the country out of the Great Depression. Everything I rememember hearing about FDR was positive. I hope to go into more detail about the book in the future but I wanted to share these thoughts on charity that I found in chapter 6. They are definitely something to think about.

Throughout American history, right from the start, charity had been a state and local function. Civic leaders, local clergy,and private citizens evaluated the legitimacy of people’s need in their communications or counties; churches and other organizations could then provide food, shelter, and clothing to help victims of fires or women abandoned by drunken husbands. Most Americans believed that the face-to-face encounters of givers and receivers of charity benefited both groups. It created just the right amount of uplift and relief, and discouraged laziness and a poor work ethic.

The Founders all saw relief as local and voluntary, and the Constitution gave no federal role for the government in providing charity. james Madison, in defeding the Constitution, observed, “Mo man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because he interest would certainly bias his judgment and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity.” In othe rwords, if relief, and other areas, were made functions of the federal government, the process would become politicized and politicians and deadbeats could conspire to trade votes for food. As Madison asked, “What are the different classes of legistlators but advocates and parties to the causes which they determine?”

He goes on…

“…Sometimes, of course, Congress was tempted to play politics with relief. In 1887, for example, several counties in Texas faced a long drought and some farmers lost their crops. Texas politicians helped cajole Congress into granting $10,000 worth of free seeds for these distressed farmers in Texas. After the bill passed the Senate and House, President Grover Cleveland vetoed it. “I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constistution,” Cleveland said. Such aid would “deestroy the partitions between proper subjects of the federal and local care and regulation.” He added, “Federal aid, in such cases, encourages the exectations of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character.” As for Texas, Clevland noted, “the friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow citizens in misfortune.”

Folsom goes on to state that Texas ended up receiving $100,000 in help from volunteer contributions.

Personally, I would like to see us go back to charity-based giving instead of government programs where money is automatically deposited into people’s accounts and there is a detachment from where the money came from. I also want to take the power out of the hands of politicians who dangle freebies in front of potential recipients in order to get votes. Disgusting, if you ask me.


I saw this on Tyler Perry’s facebook page this morning and thought I’d share it with you.

Hey everybody!

This morning I woke and was so frustrated about all the stuff I’m dealing with, trying to get this studio open. I was about to open my mouth and start complaining when I remembered something that happened to me about a year ago.

I was walking to my car and this woman who looked to be homeless started walking towards me. I’m ashamed to say this but I thought, “I don’t feel like being hustled today.” Then I got quickly convicted. I felt guilty so I started digging in my pocket for some money. As she got closer I noticed that she had the kindest eyes that I had ever seen. As I was reaching into my pocket she started to speak. I thought, “Here goes the sales pitch”. She said “Excuse me sir, I need some shoes”. Can you help me? My eyes filled with water because I remember being out on the streets and having only one pair of run over shoes. I was taken aback for a second.

I took her inside the studio and had my wardrobe people find shoes in her size. As she put the shoes on she started crying, praising God and thanking Jesus, and saying, “My feet are off the ground! My feet are off the ground!” Several of the wardrobe people started crying. I was crying. But I never forgot that, “My feet are off the ground!”

I thought, “Wow! All she wanted was some shoes.” She quickly disappeared and never asked me for a dime. I realized that I still had the money in my hand so I went out looking for her. She was gone just that quick so I looked all around the neighborhood for her. I found her standing on a corner looking down at her shoes still crying. I was so touched I asked her how she had gotten homeless. She told me that she had AIDS and that she was waiting to get into a shelter. She said that her family had turned their backs on her and she had nowhere to go and that God would make a way for her. I said to myself, “He just did.” Her faith and her praise moved me.

I took her to a nearby hotel and put her up until she was able to get on her feet. I had someone that worked for me to check on her from time to time and make sure that she had food and clothes. After about a month or so we lost touch but I never forgot her.

This past summer I was shooting “Daddy’s Little Girls” and this woman walks up to me smiling. I didn’t recognize her face but her eyes were familiar. She had on a really nice dress and her hair was done. It was her! She told me that the little help that I had given her changed her life. She was in a house now and doing very well.

I said all of that to say this. After I met this woman, every time I think about complaining and mumbling I remember, “My feet are off the ground!”

I wanted to share this with you just to let you know that when I say that I am thankful for you, I really mean it. And when I say that you are a blessing to me, I mean it. We take so much for granted sometimes that I just wanted all of you to know that I am grateful to God for you everyday.

Thank you for being in my life,


by Tyler Perry on March 21, 2007.

What is Charity?

February 28, 2011

I’ve been listening to the audiobook of Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism* by Arthur Brooks. The book came out several years ago but I’m just now taking the time to listen/read it. The purpose of the book was to look at charity (who gives and doesn’t give) in America based entirely on data.

Like many people in America, Brooks originally suspected that liberals were the givers and conservatives were non-givers.

When I started doing research on charity, I expected to find that political liberals—who, I believed, genuinely cared more about others than conservatives did—would turn out to be the most privately charitable people. So when my early findings led to the opposite conclusion, I assumed I had made some sort of technical error. I re-ran analyses. I got new data. Nothing worked. In the end, I had no option but to change my views.

I confess the prejudices of my past here to emphasize that the findings in this book—many of which may appear conservative and support a religious, hardworking, family-oriented lifestyle—are faithful to the best available evidence, and contrary to my political and cultural roots. Indeed, the irresistible pull of empirical evidence in this book is what changed the way I see the world. It has also guided me in my persoanl search for the truth—not only as a teacher and researcher but also in my private life as a donor and volunteer, as a father, as a skeptical political independent, and even as a Christian.

I quoted the above to build up to this point I found in the book:

The conventional wisdom runs like this: Liberals are charitable because they advocate government redistirbution of money in the name of social justice; conservatives are uncharitable because they opppose these policies. But note the sleight of hand: Government spending, according to this logic, is a form of charity.

Let us be clear: Government spending is not charity. It is not a voluntary sacrifice by individuals. No matter how beneficial or humane it might be, no matter how necessary it is for providing public services, it is still the obligatory redistirbution of tax revenues. Because government spending is not charity, sanctimonious yard signs do not prove that the bearers are charitable or that their opponents are selfish. (On the contrary, a public attack on the integrity of those who don’t share my beliefs might more legitimately constitute evidence that I am the uncharitable one.)

I agree 100% with the above statement. Government spending IS NOT CHARITY! This point hit home to me personally a couple of weeks ago when one of my friends posted something on facebook about the Texas budget and supposed cuts to education. I got into a discussion with one of my friend’s facebook friends who happened to be an administrator at one of the Texas school districts. He mentioned that all our problems would be solved if we just raised property taxes, which would mean a $150 in additional taxes per year on a $150,000 house. When I stated that I was against any rise in taxes, this guy resorted to calling me a Scrooge. In other words, he made the assumption that because I was against tax increases that I was stingy or uncharitable. He had no idea how much my wife and I give to charity or the amounts we donate for teachers’ gifts and the like.

That guy would do well to read this book.

*Affiliate Link

This Christmas Season my wife and I decided to forgo gifts for each other. We decided that we really don’t need anything. Instead, we are going to treat ourselves to a new mattress set sometime next year. We have been married over 17 years and have never had a good mattress. What we are doing instead is taking the money that we would have spent on ourselves and give it away (secretly). I have to say, this has been one of my favorite Christmas Seasons ever.

Anyway, I got to thinking about all the ways people can give to each other without spending lots of money. I came up with a list of ten things. Let me know if you have something to add to the list.

1. Smile

2. Yield your place in the checkout line to someone else.

3. Take an interest in another person.

4. Let someone go ahead of you when driving.

5. Pay the toll for the person behind you.

6. Pay the tab for the person behind you in the restaurant drive-thru.

7. Compliment the employees at the businesses you frequent.

8. Report exceptional service by employees to their managers. Be sure and remember their name.

9. Be patient.

10. Leave a nice tip and a note for the servers at the restaurants you frequent.


December 16, 2010

What a guy…

Have you heard of The Giving Pledge? Bill Gates and Warren Buffett created the pledge in order to get wealthy individuals and families to give away half of their estates. Below is a list of those who have taken the pledge so far. As you can see, these are some wealthy people.

I might have heard about this pledge earlier but didn’t pay attention to it until I saw Billionaires Who Haven’t Taken the Giving Pledge on MSN this morning. By making this list public, it does seem to put some pressure on those who are wealthy and have not yet made the pledge. As the above article mentions, all of those on the list who have not yet pledged have their own charities and do give back to society.

Paul G. Allen

Laura and John Arnold

Michael R. Bloomberg

Eli and Edythe Broad

Warren Buffett

Michele Chan and Patrick Soon-Shiong

Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg

Ann and John Doerr

Larry Ellison

Bill and Melinda Gates

Barron Hilton

Jon and Karen Huntsman

Joan and Irwin Jacobs

George B. Kaiser

Elaine and Ken Langone

Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest

Lorry I. Lokey

George Lucas

Alfred E. Mann

Bernie and Billi Marcus

Thomas S. Monaghan

Tashia and John Morgridge

Pierre and Pam Omidyar

Bernard and Barbro Osher

Ronald O. Perelman

Peter G. Peterson

T. Boone Pickens

Julian H. Robertson, Jr.

David Rockefeller

David M. Rubenstein

Herb and Marion Sandler

Vicki and Roger Sant

Walter Scott, Jr.

Jim and Marilyn Simons

Jeff Skoll

Tom Steyer and Kat Taylor

Jim and Virginia Stowers

Ted Turner

Sanford and Joan Weill

Shelby White