Give Today to Create a Better Tomorrow
I love my job. In my time at Abundance Canada, I’ve had a front row seat to Canadians’ charitable giving for over twenty years. It is a joy to work with people who generously donate their time and money to make the world a better place. The good accomplished through Canada’s 170,000 charitable and not-for-profit organizations is truly remarkable. However, events over the past few months have highlighted the uncomfortable truth that where there is a need for people to be charitable, there is likely a system of injustice that needs to be addressed as well.
Charity and Justice
For example, demand for foodbank services across the country surged during COVID-19. Thankfully, Canadians responded, and many hungry people received the food they needed. This kind of giving is easy. It feels good, the impact is immediate, and we don’t have to ask ourselves too many hard questions about why people are hungry in the first place if we don’t want to. But how would our giving change if we did ask those hard questions?
What if, in addition to feeding hungry people, our goal was to eradicate hunger? We’d have no choice but to ask why we allow people to go hungry in a world capable of growing enough food for everyone to live adequately.
While donating to the local foodbank is important, tackling the larger issue of why people are hungry in the first place addresses the root injustice that makes the foodbank necessary. Suddenly, we’re forced to consider what a just society looks like and grapple with what we will do to make that just society a reality.
Confront Injustice, Give Generously
In this time of polarization, I want to be clear that I am not suggesting that anyone should have to choose between charitable giving or addressing injustice. Nor is one more important than the other. This is a ‘both/and’ solution. We must give generously to meet immediate needs while boldly confronting the deeper issues to create a better future. But how do we start?
Confronting injustice begins by keeping our hearts and minds open as we:
- Listen to the experience of others, especially those who are marginalized.
- Take responsibility for our own awareness by reading the news, attending events, and educating ourselves about the issues.
- Speak up, especially when things are said that malign groups of people or make unfair assumptions about others.
- Respond with humility and grace when our actions or words are critiqued.
- Keep giving to charity, because some problems and the people who face them can’t wait for justice. They need support right now, and our donations help to ensure they get it.
I know this list is hardly complete, and I admit it is offered from the perspective of a white, middle-aged, cis-gendered heterosexual male who has enjoyed the benefits of a system that was created for people who look just like me. Therefore, I welcome the wisdom of those with lived experience different than my own to add their ideas. The more we work together, the more effectively we can work to improve both charity and justice.
Giving generously to charity while acknowledging and addressing root injustice is not an easy task, but it is an important one. The next time you give, I invite you to celebrate the ways in which your generosity is helping people today, and then take a moment to consider what you can do to help bring about justice for them tomorrow.
Contributed by Darren Pries-Klassen