Archive for the ‘Charitable giving’ Category

When Obama first ran for Prexy way back in 2-ought-8, he sounded pretty good. We’d had eight years of George II, and I was pretty much filled to the brim with the bullshit that he’d been shoveling. I figured it was time to put the leadership back in the hands of the Democrats. “What the hell,” I thought, “it would be impossible for them to fuck things up anymore than Georgie and “the hit man” had already done. I even went so far as to send a contribution to the Obama campaign, and that, my friends, is the biggest mistake that any American citizen can ever make.

I had been warned by many people never to make a contribution of any kind to any organization of any type because they will hound you to your grave. It’s true; it’s true, and I’m not singing anything from Camelot. Thankfully, I’m not in my grave…well, one foot’s in and the other’s on a banana peel, but what the hell. I did not keep track since 2008. However, I did keep track of the last four days. In that time, I have received nearly 20 e-mails from someone in the Democratic Party. The first one came from the top dog himself. It read:

“I’ve already emailed you this month. I’m emailing you again because this is important. Take 30 seconds to read this: — Republican outside groups are outspending us nearly 3-to-1. — That’s nearly 3 times as many resources attacking our Democratic candidates. — The most important fundraising deadline we’ve faced is in just 48 hours. Richard, I don’t want to lose this election because we didn’t fight Republican attacks when we had the chance.”

Who is “us?” I will make the unwarranted assumption that “us” is members of the Democratic Party. Guess what, I-don’t-care. You see, I’m one of those people who is embarrassed by a Congress that has done absolutely nothing but pass an Affordable Health Care bill that is neither affordable nor does it cover, in a reasonable manner, the health care for all Americans. Other than that, they have spent their time pissing and moaning over the fact that the passed that bill – which, by the way, leads me to question their intelligence in the first place. Therefore, where it says, “incumbent” on my ballot in the fall of 2016, the other person will be receiving my vote. He or she can’t be any worse than what we have in the various suites right now.

The next e-mail came from Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and the Congressional Representative from Florida’s 23rd congressional district. Debbie said

“If I thought this could wait, I wouldn’t be emailing you. Right now, Boehner is using his corporate cash to creep into TVs across America. All told, we’re facing $30 million worth of attack ads. I don’t plan on letting Boehner win in November. But we’re coming up short of what we’ll need to fight Boehner’s smears. Our critical deadline is in 48 hours. I’m pleading with you to take a moment and step up.”

Right away she pissed me off. Congressman John Boehner may be orange in color, a member of the opposing party, and a real son-of-a-bitch, but he is still a duly elected Congressman from Ohio and chairman of the House of Representatives. How about a little professional politeness here; you could, at the very least, refer to him as “Congressman” Boehner. In addition, remember that Congressman Boehner, for all his faults, doesn’t personally prepare the smears; hell, that’s why he has a staff.

There were a few more in between but then I received this one:

“We’re running out of people to email you, Richard. “In the last two days, you should have received an email from: — President Obama — Nancy Pelosi — Debbie Wasserman Schultz  “That’s how important this is! Democrats are getting massively outspent by Republican groups. And we’re fighting desperately to turn it around. “We need 61,037 more donations in the next 48 hours if we want any shot at giving President Obama a Democratic House for his final two years.”

And it was signed “James.” Who the hell is James? In addition, I must have missed Nancy’s. Oh, sure, she’s written letters to me from time to time, but I don’t recall any recent e-mails. I felt somewhat insulted not to have heard from Nancy. She’s that Congressional delegate who’s always trying to get legislation passed that will help her husband’s business…ooh, not nice!

I won’t bother to relate the texts of any of the other please. You understand the gist of what was going on. However, the subject lines in some of these were priceless: “Richard, I’m begging.” Don’t beg; begging makes you look bad; begging is a poor choice of words. “We’ve got nothing left, Richard.” Hey, what makes you different from the average American citizen? You’ve got nothing left? Tell that to the people who have been scammed out of their savings; tell it to the elderly who must decide between pills to keep them alive and putting food on the table. Another subject heading was “Boehner stunned,” telling all of the wonderful comeback in fundraising, and that, Congressman “Boehner will scream with rage when he sees this e-mail.” I’m quite certain the Congressman has better things to do. This was followed by, “everything has failed;” “we have failed;” “we’ve never failed like this;” “pummeled,” and this you have to hear: “It’s going to take everything we have to answer President Obama’s call-to-action, beat Boehner, and hit our fundraising goal tonight.” And, finally, “Astronomical,” indicating that all is well in the world of Democratic Party fundraising. If you’ve ever heard the expression, “Figures don’t lie, but liars sure can figure,” you can understand my skepticism over this whole thing.

The point is that if you intend to make a donation to some cause, do it by putting cash in an envelope and send it anonymously. Sure, it will get stolen by the person opening the envelope, but maybe it will go to a good cause. It will also pretty much assure you that you won’t get bombarded as I have and expect to until the day I die…then my heirs will get bombarded…serves ‘em right!


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You will have to pardon my ignorance [or not]but there appears to be a somewhat confused political structure in the United States. We want to reduce the deficit but one billion dollars is immediately made available to Ukraine to assist in stabilizing their infrastructure and no one in Congress is heard complaining about it? That doesn’t make a whole hell of a lot of sense to me. Countries that are starving for one reason or another receive aid in the form of rice, powdered milk, and other food products from the United States, yet 17 million children under the age of 18 go to bed hungry each night in our own country. And that doesn’t make a whole hell of a lot of sense to me either. We give billions and billions of foreign aid to other countries, I guess because money talks and bullshit walks, and we want everybody to be our ‘friend.’ Just watch how friendly they’ll be if we reduce or eliminate all that foreign aid in deference to repairing our own infrastructure. They’ll jump on that “Hate America” bandwagon so fast, it will make your head spin.

Please, don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with supplying assistance to countries that truly require our help. One of the major problems, as I see it, is that the aid we do supply all too often does not wind up in the hands of those who need it. Corruption is rife in too many of the countries we boast of helping, but it’s not the country or the people. It winds up in the hands of the military or the despots of those countries who hold the aid hostage over their own people. We just don’t appear to understand that many of the countries to whom we supply aid and assistance have different cultural values and different social mores than we do. If anyone bothered to study America, they would find that culturally we are quite different even within our own nation.

When President Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, it was considered to be one of the greatest public works programs in the history of the country. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, “…the Interstate System has been a part of our culture—as construction projects, as transportation in our daily lives, and as an integral part of the American way of life.  Every citizen has been touched by it, if not directly as motorists, and then indirectly because every item we buy has been on the Interstate System at some point.  President Eisenhower considered it one of the most important achievements of his two terms in office, and historians agree.”  There was only one problem with the construction of the Interstate Highway System…the funds appropriated for it did not consider the ‘real’ cost of maintaining it.  The best analogy I can give is that of a major donor bearing the entire cost of constructing a dormitory/residence hall for his or her alma mater. The problem arises when that dorm has to be furnished and the building maintained. Where does that money come from or do we merely let the building deteriorate? The answer, of course, is that monies must be appropriated to maintain the building to the detriment of other things. Therefore, in the long run, the alumnus/alumna didn’t do his or her college any great favors. In my years in higher education, I know of only one situation where monies were given not only for the building, but for its endowment or maintenance. Today, that building is as beautiful as it was the day it was opened. When the Department of Transportation goes to seek the funds it requires to repair our nation’s bridges and roads, Congress and the Presidents who have succeeded Eisenhower always seem to find other, more pressing problems…like giving money in foreign aid…read that as “Giving blood money to keep our so-called friends happy.” Not to get too personal, but I drive under overpasses and over underpasses each day and some of both just scare the living daylights out of me.

There is no question that America has always done its fair share to help other nations, whether it’s by sending our military to help quell world wars; providing food and dollars to help nations get back on their feet following one calamity or another; or by providing expertise in assisting underdeveloped countries to move ahead. That’s us; that’s the way we are. Unfortunately, I fear that we have often times cast our eyes across the seas rather than taking a hard look inward and from coast to coast.

I, like most other people in our wonderful country, bitch and wail, and moan and whine about this not being done or that not being done, and I do nothing about it. I cast my ballot at every election, not for a single party, but for the candidate who I believe can do the best job. Yet, time and time again, I wind up being disappointed. I’m firmly convinced that there are people in Washington who believe as I do and as you do…but you and I are also different so perhaps I’m making an unwarranted assumption here. Do we all agree that there is a poverty issue in the United States? Do we all agree that our educational system needs an overhaul? Do we all agree that our roads and highways are dangerous and in need of repair? Do we all agree that too much is expected of our military whenever a skirmish breaks out somewhere? Do  we all agree that not everyone should receive a college education? There are hundreds of “Do we all agrees…” but who wants to prioritize them? Who says we all agree? What’s important in Massachusetts may be pretty damned low on the Minnesota, Montana, or Mississippi agenda? Is one state more important than the other? Wow, talk about questions!

I hope that I’ve given you some food for thought. If you still have some fire in your belly, stand up and shout. Make your voice heard in Washington…or as my dear old Dad would have said, “Make yourself a real pain in someone else’s ass!”


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J’evah notice that around this time of year, there is always some sum—bitch who gets pissed off about Christmas. I saw a house recently where the roof was being reshingled. They’d removed the old shingles and had covered the wood with a rubberized blanket. In beautiful block print lettering on this undercoat, the manufacturer, the builder, or someone had written “Put Christ Back in Christmas.”  It’s a beautiful sentiment; doesn’t mean a goddamned thing to those people who are hip-checking your ass out of the way so they can grab the last of the toy du jour; nor does it really mean a friggin’ thing to those who drive through the mall parking lot like they’re on the track at Daytona, to find the nearest exit so they can go home and wrap the gifts they’ve just bought with the money they don’t have to give to people who will only bitch about the gift being the wrong size, shape, color, or model and who, without considering the intent with which it was given, will only bitch about having to exchange it and the lines in which they’ll have to stand..whew!.

Right now I happen to be reading Bill O’Reilly’s latest book, Killing Jesus, so that really puts me in the holiday spirit. It appears that the Romans knew more ways to torture and kill Jews that anyone before them…and they worked at it. They didn’t even crucify you until they’d beaten your back and upper legs down to the bone; then they made you carry the cross piece to a pole in the ground where they promptly tied you to this cross piece, drove nails into your wrists; hoisted you up – how, I have no idea – broke your ankles and tied your legs to the pole and left you there to die. Ha, and you thought the Grinch was a rotten bastard! I’m beginning to think Jesus should have kept his mouth shut and sold one of the Apostles down the river!

In addition to learning what Jesus was in for at a time when we’re supposed to be celebrating his birth even though we know he wasn’t born in the twelfth month, it seems that the second week in December, at least for me, is designated as visit the doctors’ week. Every single year this seems to happen: Monday it was the ophthalmologist…who told me that my eyes were aging – “and that ain’t the only part,” I wanted to say. What the hell does that mean, your eyes are aging? Of course they are. There was a time when I wore trifocals. Then this very same doctor removed cataracts, put in some new lenses and gave me back my 20/20. Now he has the audacity to tell me my eyes are aging…and at Christmas time…screw you, you son-of-a-bitch; go ahead, make my day. Tuesday was an appointment with a gastroenterologist. This is a follow-up to my recent colonoscopy – if you need further clarification, I invite you to see Billy Connolly’s description on YouTube. This doctor’s news was better; my colon evidently is not aging, but it is becoming a bit wrinkled. “Don’t let it get any more wrinkled,” he informed me. Now what the hell can I do to get my colon unwrinkled? If anyone can answer that, I’ll trade colons with them. He did give me the good news that he doesn’t want to see me again for five years. Holy Jesus, by then my colon ought to look like a Hungarian Komonder or a friggin’ Puli. Wednesday was pulmonary day, the day I see Dino. This is a doctor of whom I think the world. He treats patients as people. He doesn’t see me as another patient with emphysema and C.O.P.D. He sees me as Dick, the late Joan’s husband; the guy who loves to cook and read. When Dino is teaching young doctors, he reminds them, “Never forget that behind that patient with the lung disease, or the cancer, or the this or that, is a person who still has the same needs and desires that you have. The patient is a person! Treat them like one.” So what does he have to say? “I’m putting you on a new medication to allow you to breathe better. You want a one-month supply or a three-month supply?” With winter coming on, I figure a three-month supply is not a bad idea. Then I get a call from the pharmacy.  It-is-impossible-to-imitate-the-Walmart-voice, but listen to this…”This is your Walmart pharmacy. A person in your household has….one…prescription ready to be picked up. The total cost will be three hundred forty-seven dollars and four cents.”

“X-fucking-scuse me? Are you shitting me?” I say as I close my phone. “This is the season of giving, not of taking. You couldn’t even give me the goddamned four cent discount…where the hell does the four cents come from?” Juli was just staring at me. Finally, without breaking into a grin, she asks, “Walmart?” All I can do is glare until we both begin laughing out loud at my tirade against a recorded voice. I just love these miracle drugs…and the doctors who think nothing of prescribing them.

Today is Thursday. We went to Walmart to buy a few things and to pick up my prescription. Linda, one of the pharmacy assistants, just looked at me as I approached the counter. The pharmacist behind the counter stopped what she was doing and peeked out from behind her computer screen.

Linda: “Hi, er, hi, Dick…ah…um…are you sure you want to pick up the three-months worth of this?”

Pharmacist – from behind her computer screen, with exceedingly large smirk: “You can get the one-month supply if you want.”

Linda: “You..ah…um…you know this is over three hundred dollars, right?”

Me : “Three hundred, forty-seven dollars…and four cents…that about right?”

Linda: “Yeah?”

Me: (sotto voce so only Linda can hear) “Ring the fucking thing up, Linda!” Linda cracks up to the point where it appears she may lose bladder control. In as soft a voice as I had used, she replies…”fucking’ A!” and proceeds to abuse my debit card for the entire amount…chuckling! I’m certain she told the pharmacist of our exchange but frankly, I don’t give a damn. Ring your bell just as much as you want Mr. Salvation Army man with your big red kettle and your “Ho-ho-ho;” You won’t get as much this year as you did last…sorry about that…blame my freakin’ doctor.

Tomorrow is Friday. I have no doctors’ appointments. I have neither plans to visit Walmart nor any other store. My car is fully gassed, and I am going, very early, to the gym. I will then come home, change back into my pajamas, hide my wallet under my pillow, and sleep the day, arising only to take my pills and my new – three hundred forty seven dollar and four cents – prescription.

Merry Christmas?


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About this time every year for the past several years, I become somewhat emotional as well as pissed off at my body for letting me down. This year I guess I have an excuse because of the torn Achilles, but if it’s not one thing, it seems to be another. I’m speaking of the fact that I am no longer able to volunteer for my favorite charity, The Pan-Massachusetts Challenge (PMC) which will be held this first weekend in August. The PMC raises money for the Jimmy Fund and the Dana Farber Cancer Research Center. Since its beginnings in 1980, the PMC has raised over $375 million.

“What is this PMC?” you ask.

Oh please, don’t get me started. The PMC is a bike ride; it’s not a race; it’s a bike ride! For many, it’s a two-day ride from Sturbridge, Massachusetts to Provincetown, MA. Don’t bother to figure the mileage; it’s 192 miles. Don’t worry, these folks stop at the Mass Maritime Academy in Bourne for a sleepover before crossing the Bourne Bridge which is one of the two entrances to Cape Cod. Over the years, shorter routes have been added to accommodate the number of riders who want to be a part of this great organization. I guess here might be a good time to tell you that every penny raised by riders goes directly to the charity. Administrative costs come from a separate foundation – and the fact that there are overworked and underpaid slaves in the office who are beaten severely on a regular basis [just kidding]. There are now over a dozen routes to ride the PMC, and many are single-day rides.

My commitment to the PMC spanned over 10 years, not as a rider but as a volunteer. It began before my late wife, Joan, was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer, and it lasted after her death in 2008. It is impossible to describe the feeling, the emotions of preparing to volunteer, just as I’m certain it’s impossible to know how the riders must feel as the train, both separately and in groups, for the ride – training includes a one-day century ride; you’ve got it…100 miles in a single day. Obviously, not everyone puts themselves through that kind of a regimen, but there are some 7,000 plus who do.

On the day of the ride, emotions run high. There’s a great deal of hugging and kissing, well-wishing and yes, a great many tears. Many people ride with pictures attached to their jerseys; for others, it’s a list of those for whom they’re riding. Helmets are adorned with animals of all kinds, usually representative of a toy that was someone’s favorite. There have been times I’ve invited friends to “just come over and watch.” Every single one of them has later admitted that he or she has cried tears of joy for what they saw as genuine dedication and commitment on the part of the riders as well as the volunteers.

The year after Joan died, I was asked to be part of the very brief speaking program that precedes the start of the ride. It was tough, one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. As I looked out at that sea of riders, I had trouble holding it together. These people were riding so that there wouldn’t be any more Joan’s or Jimmy’s. There they were…cops and teachers, college students and investment bankers, Red Sox wives and then-Senator John Kerry; there were husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, and just about any profession you can name, including many of the doctors, nurses, and administrators from Dana Farber and the Jimmy Fund…now that I think of it, I wonder who the hell was minding the store?

Now that I can no longer be an active part of this event, I do a bit as a supporter of a couple of riders. I’m proud to support them and I’m proud of my association with the PMC. If you’d like to learn more, please go to http://www.pmc.org and learn more about this wonderful program. Oh, and if you’ve got an extra buck or so, don’t be afraid to become part of the PMC. I guarantee it’ll feel good to give to such a worthy cause.

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I received a whole heap of materials the other day from Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. Right away I get nervous. What the hell is a Senator from New York doing writing to a guy from Massachusetts? It just didn’t seem right but…what the hell.

Schumer’s first mistake was…well, the very first mistake was sending me this mish-mosh, but other than that, his first mistake was in his salutation; “Dear fellow Democrat.” See, right off the bat, he’s proving he doesn’t know his ass from his elbow. I’m not now nor have I ever considered myself to belong to one or another of the political parties we claim to have in the United States. If he ever learned that I’d voted for Eisenhower, he’d absolutely crap his pants!

The good Senator – although I’m having some second thoughts about that adjective, or is it an adverb; ah, who cares – but the Senator opens with, “Here’s the hard truth: Republicans think they’ve got us right where they want us.”  What the hell is this? Are we playing some kind of sports game here? “They’ve got us where they want us?” What does this mean? Are we so diametrically opposed to whatever it is the Republicans that someone is keeping score?  I thought you were part of a 100-person team enacting laws to help all Americans. Instead, it’s a battle between the Democrats and the Republicans. Wake up Charlie. This isn’t us against them. This isn’t the Senate v. the House. This isn’t Congress against the President. It’s not anybody against anybody.

“They think they can force us to cut Social Security agree to Rep. Paul Ryan’s tax cuts for the rich, and dismantle health care reform, piece by piece. They think they can run out the clock on the Obama presidency and stop us from making progress for the middle class.” Hold on there Chuckles; Do you honestly believe that anyone in his or her right mind is going to go along with Representative Ryan’s tax cuts? If you or your colleagues are that stupid, maybe it’s time to put someone in your seat who has a bit of good old common horse sense. As for the health care plan that has been passed, it’s not perfect; you know it and so do I. It’s a beginning and needs constant reexamination “in order to establish a more perfect plan.” If those words are strange to you, go back and check the Constitution. .

“I don’t have any intention to let [sic] the GOP push us around. But it’s not up to me. It’s up to you.” So if you get pushed around by the Republicans, it’s not your fault; it’s mine? Is that what you’re telling me? Are you abrogating your responsibilities as a United States Senator and trying to pass the blame for your failure on every citizen to whom you sent this bullshit. You goddamned coward; you think by getting me to give you a buck or two, you’ll suddenly solve all of your problems? I wanna smoke what you’re smokin’ because it’s gotta be some really good stuff!

“Republicans have proven time and time again that, when it comes to their dangerous plan to destroy the economic security of the middle class, they won’t listen to reason. We have plenty of good arguments of change. What we need are more sensible Democrats in the Senate who will actually work to enact change.” Ah, Charley, I hate to tell you this, but you have a majority in the Senate. Have you considered the possibility that the Republicans in the Senate and the Democrats in the Senate are just a bunch of fools who put themselves and their parties first rather than putting their constituents ahead of all of their pettiness? I love this next one: “You’d think Republicans would look at the 2012 elections and realize that the American people ain’t buying the old, broken ideas they’re selling.”  I don’t know who wrote this for you, but I hope he or she is currently collecting unemployment. You may believe you’re being folksy by using “ain’t,” but give people more credit, please.

This four-page letter continued in this same vein; the Republicans are going to run us over; cut Social Security and Medicare; eliminate teaching positions so that our children will not be properly educated. They’re going to let the rich get richer and there will eventually be no middle class. Let me share a news flash with the good Senator…There hasn’t been a middle class in this country for over a decade. There are the super rich; the rich; the upper lower class; and the lower class. There are seniors who have to choose between food or medication. If they try to have both, they generally get caught shoplifting what they want for dinner that night.

It’s you, Senator, who is to blame for the position we find ourselves in right now. You’re absolutely right; you have, as you say in your letter, been around while, and you have won a lot of fights. It you’re feeling too old or too tired to fight anymore, find a young turk in New York who’s ready to pick up your banner. Take the millions you’ve made in the Senate and retire somewhere to an island where you can relax and not have to worry about this nonsense. I’m old; I won’t be around for the next 40 years – 35 maybe, but not 40. There are too many people just like you who want to pick the pockets of the people you’ve already reduced to a lower living standard.  How much of your personal fortune have you and the other millionaires on the Democratic side of the aisle committed in your fight against the “Republican Menace?”

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It’s not so much that I’m mad about the shenanigans that are going on in Washington; no, it’s that I’m terribly upset that our country has come to this state of ‘hatred.’ Sure, we’ve been through these episodes before in our history and we have survived. One can go all the way back to the Pilgrims versus the Puritans I suppose, but I prefer the Revolutionary War as a time when neighbor hated neighbor and, in too many cases, murder was the outcome. The not-so-humorous joke is that more Americans were killed in the Civil War than in any other this nation has fought. We have been a divided nation since our founding, but I’m not certain that in my nearly eight decades of life I have ever seen a division greater than today.

We are supposed to be, “one nation under God,” and yet, there is such a separation of wealth that it would be more correct to say, “Many nations under God.” Heck, when you stop and think about it, we can’t even decide on which God it is that we are supposed to be under. We are not one nation; we are fragments of a former nation, and if someone doesn’t grasp the reigns of leadership in the very near future, we are going to become a non-nation, weakening itself to the point that we may as well go back and becoming another colony of Great Britain.

I am sick to death of the pettiness that I find in our nation’s supposed capitol, Washington, D.C.  From President Obama’s pettiness of closing the White House to tourists to Rand Paul’s twelve-hour filibuster to prevent a vote on confirmation of John Brennan as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), there is nothing but childish action and reaction taking place. It really is quite sad to see grown men and women, supposedly intelligent people behaving in such a manner.

“If we don’t cut spending we will be leaving a massive debt for our children and grandchildren to pay.” Okay and your point is? Hell, we’ve been in hock up to our ears for so long that even our own citizens have stopped caring. We are a nation of “I don’t care as long as I get mine; a nation of NIMBY’s; a nation of hooray for me and to hell with you!” I can’t be hard on Congress and the White House when all I have to do is watch how people act in the supermarket when there is the threat of a winter storm.  When those same folks start bitching about, “…oh, we lost power and by the time it came back on I had to throw out all the food in the freezer.” Hey, ain’t life a bitch when your freezer is so full? Did you even consider what homeless people were doing while you were stocking up, afraid you might not be able to get out for a couple of days? Of course you didn’t; you were getting yours and to hell with the rest of the world!

Somehow, we have gone off the rails. I can’t tell you exactly why or how this has happened, but I know that it has.  I remember when a couple of us would go up to old Mr. Feeney’s house after a snowstorm and shovel his driveway and the path to his front door. If some other kids came along, they’d usually lend a hand. Of course, we went to other people’s houses and charge them for shoveling, but Mr. Feeney lived on our street and he was ‘old.’ I’m quite certain he wasn’t as old as we thought, but then, what did we know? I just don’t see that attitude with children or adults today.

Are there any numbers of isolated cases where people do good things for others?  Of course, there are, but we don’t hear about them because there is so much bad news to talk about. “If it bleeds it leads” is still the motto of our news media. Who wants to hear about a group of people getting together with their ‘buy-one-get-one-free’ coupons just to benefit a food bank or a homeless shelter? It doesn’t sell and it doesn’t attract advertising dollars.

Whether you are citing Leviticus 19:18, “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD” or Mark 12:31, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these,” or not citing the Holy Bible at all, it’s a pretty good idea to remember that there are a whole lot of people out there who can use the help if we can give it.

The art of compromise is not difficult. If we are to grow as a nation, our leaders must learn to put aside their pettiness. We, each and every man and woman in this country, must begin to look on themselves as Americans first and behave as Americans should.

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This is a season of giving. It’s not merely a case of giving to loved ones, to family and friends but also a time when we are asked to consider those less fortunate. This is a good thing. We get to do something to help someone else and, quite frankly, we get to feel good about ourselves because we did so. Before you make a gift to any charitable organization, however, it’s a smart move to determine exactly how much of that donation is actually helping and how much is going for overhead.

There are any numbers of charity watchdog organizations that can help you make your decisions about which charity is really putting its money to work and which is merely helping to stuff the pockets of a few executives. For example, when Todd Bassett was heading the Salvation Army, his salary was $13,000 and ninety-three cents of every dollar was being spent directly to benefit those who needed it. With Israel Gaither at the helm, the salary jumped from somewhere between $79 and $243K and I have no information regarding how that changed the 93% figure, but you can bet your bottom dollar it made a shift. You might want to check out Charity Navigator, The American Institute of Philanthropy, or The Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.

I will not give to the American Red Cross. I figure that any organization where the CEO is making a salary of over half a million a year and has a number of other perks is not really my cup of tea. In addition, I’m not crazy about the United Way for the very same reason. My gifts are important to me. I want them to mean something, both to me and to the organization that receives my limited resources. My late wife loved the Make-A-Wish Foundation. In lieu of Christmas presents to each other, I would give to Make-A-Wish in her honor and she’d make a gift to a charity of my choice. Don’t get any big ideas here; the gifts might be anywhere from $10. to $250, but if you give enough over the years or if you have a couple of extra bucks in your pocket – oh stop laughing; it’s not a joke – why blow it when you can help someone else. Of course, the ultimate gift is the one you put in the plate on Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning. Churches need help all the time. It’s not a ticket to heaven, but if you know your priest or minister and enjoy what he or she has to say, it’s a damned darn good cause.

When I read about charitable organizations that pay their executives exorbitant salaries and give them so many extra perks, I just wonder about the wisdom of the board of governors or trustees. Have they lost sight of the purpose of the organizations? There aren’t many people with managerial skills who are worth more than half a million dollars a year. In addition, the executive who wants that kind of money should be subject to some very serious scrutiny by those about to hire him or her. If that salary includes allowances for clothing, travel, housing, etc, then certainly it becomes a different story. However, if there are separate allowances for those costs, look out!

I’m in a very good place. I don’t have the worries that too many younger people have. My three kids each have three kids. My children worry about their mortgages, college tuition, and other major expenses. That’s behind me; my worries concern property taxes and medical bills. As a result, perhaps I’m being a bit paranoid about giving to charity. Each year since retirement I’ve tried to donate one month’s worth of retirement income to various charities. It doesn’t always work, but that’s the goal that I’ve set for charitable giving each year. Before anyone gets my bucks, however, there are two simple questions that must be answered:

  1. What percentage of your gifts go to directly benefit the recipient and what percentage is going for organizational overhead?
  2. What is the salary of your organization’s chief executive officer and what is the salary of the chief financial officer?

Two very simple questions, and if the answer to the first one is that less than seventy-five cents of every dollar goes to the recipient, you’ve lost my money. If I don’t like the salaries of the two people mentioned, you’ve lost my money.

You may not be as fussy as I am about where my charitable contributions go. But, perhaps you should be asking yourself, “Am I really helping those who are deserving or am I just lining the pockets of another greedy son-of-a-bitch?”

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