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Is Altruism a Bad Thing?

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I was talking to a friend the other night, and she said something that kind of shocked me. We were discussing a mutual friend whose debit card (and, subsequently, entire paycheck) was stolen, and I said, “I’m so tempted to loan her money, but I’m trying to remind myself that her parents are able to help and I don’t need to jump in.”

My friend responded, “You’ve got to stop helping people. All it does is get them ahead while you struggle to keep up.”

Um, What?

Given my history of compulsive shopping and spending, it may or may not surprise you to know that I also have a long history of giving to others. I’m not saying that to brag on myself; it’s just the way I roll. If someone needs a dollar and I have a dollar, I’m going to give it to them. If a friend’s car is in the shop and she needs groceries, I’ll drive her to the store. I’m a big believer in karma and paying it forward, so I figure I’m setting myself up for good things someday. And if not, at least I did something nice for another person.

My friend’s comment kind of caught me off guard. And, naturally, I have dwelled on it ever since. (Like I don’t spend enough time analyzing myself!) Am I giving to others to my own detriment? Should I resist the urge to do what feels right in favor of how it could impact me in the long run?

I understand that I can’t give something I don’t really have to give. For instance, if someone needed $1000 right now, I would have to remind myself I need that money to keep myself and my son afloat. But if they needed $10? I wouldn’t think twice. Or if someone needed clothes? I could pull a whole wardrobe out of my closet without touching the things I wear on a regular basis. Why wouldn’t I do things like that when it doesn’t hurt me in any way to do it?

Sometimes I Get Bitten

A few years ago, a man was sleeping on a bench in my town. Now I know that’s pretty common in a lot of places, but not around here. His story was pretty typical – his wife packed up their kids and left, he started drinking, lost his job, and ended up homeless. My church decided to give him a hand up. One member owned some apartments and gave him one rent-free until he could find a job. The church bought appliances. People bought him clothes, food, and toiletries.

I donated money to go toward clothing and food, then at the last minute, I decided to give the man an old TV I had. It was just sitting in a room collecting dust, and I figured he’d enjoy having some form of entertainment. I will never forget the look on his face when I took it to the apartment. It was like Christmas for him.

Within weeks, he was sober, working, and constantly asking for ways to help the church. It was amazing what the help had done for him. Three months later, his apartment was completely empty – he had pawned everything, including the appliances and the TV I donated, and taken off to who knows where.

Now a lot of people will hear that and say, “See? That’s proof you shouldn’t help people. They just take advantage and now you lost your TV.”

For me? Yeah, it sucks, but I gave it for the right reasons and I’m at peace with it. Hopefully one day he’ll look back on all that my church did for him and use it as motivation to truly¬†change his life. I’m not going to waste time regretting what I did because there’s no point.

What Do You Think?

Is it stupid to give to others? What circumstances make it okay to reach out to someone in need, versus sitting back and waiting for someone else to step up? Should we always expect something in return when we help others?

 

About Andrea Whitmer

Andrea is a freelance web developer and mom trying to maintain a sense of humor in an otherwise chaotic world. She blogs in hopes of helping others avoid the same mistakes she made in the past. Join in the discussion here on So Over This, or connect on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or Google Plus. You can also subscribe to new posts via RSS so you never miss out!

Comments

  1. MoneyMateKate says:

    I've done a lot of calculated person-to-person giving, meaning I gave things that if they were pawned or whatever, I wouldn't have more than a minor twinge of resentment. I unfortunately discovered that, despite her current unpopularity, Suze Orman is sooo right that "you don't solve money problems with money". It's a bandaid, and doesn't fix what got them into that position, whether it's the homeless guy on the bench or Ethiopia.

    • That's a good point – I've never been able to listen to Suze long enough to hear her say that. My dad always says, "You don't take on debt to pay off other debt," which is kind of the same idea. But I do think there's a difference between chronic financial problems (like I used to have) and a one-time crisis. The friend who is constantly bumming money won't get a dime from me without a repayment plan, but the friend whose house burned down is getting everything I can comfortably give.

      • I agree with both comments.  I think helping those who actually NEED it and aren't just moochers is commendable.  However, you can't want more for someone than they want for themselves.  You have to be wise and what good is it going to do if you give beyond what you can and then you're in need?  Giving of your time is a huge sacrifice–consider that rather than monetary support.

  2. I know this is a lame response, but every situation is different. It would totally depend on the circumstances. However, perhaps you need to find a better balance, especially if you keep helping the same people over and over again. It sucks to get burned, but you can get burned in any situation. That's not something that would make me stop helping people.

    • Very true. I actually ended a friendship because it became very one-sided. I was always helping her with things (transportation, money, clothes, etc.) but she wouldn't return the favor. I try not to keep score or keep track – if I loan someone $3, for instance, I don't expect them to pay it back – but it's hard not to notice when it happens constantly.

  3. Don't listen to them. If everyone was like you then the world would be an altogether better place.
    Lizzie

  4. I think as long as you're giving something that won't put you in a dire situation yourself, it's generally good to give. Of course, I think there are also situations when it wouldn't be wise- I'm not going to give money to someone who I know is going to turn around and buy drugs with it. Some people would, but I wouldn't. And of course, money (or things) won't fix everything, so sometimes it might be hurting more than it's helping to give. 

    But someone who has been the victim of a crime, accident, or catastrophe of some sort, or who has just fallen on hard times, I'm more than willing to give a bit of money, some stuff, or some of my time. I don't generally expect to get something in return, though. I just hope that if it's ever my loved one (or myself) in that situation, that others will lend a hand too. 

    • I wouldn't give money to someone if I knew for a fact that they would use it for drugs. But I also don't waste much time worrying about what "could" happen. For example, lots of people wouldn't give $5 to a homeless person because they might use it for cigarettes or alcohol. And that's fine with me if people have a problem with it. But for me personally, I just know they're homeless and miserable. If I was in that situation, I'd probably want to drink too. So I would hand over $5, and if the person chose to use it for something dumb, that's not my fault. 

      Overall, I really think it depends. Every situation is different and every person (both giver and recipient) is different as well.

  5. That church story sure isn't new, but that doesn't make it common, either. Like you said, there's a difference between $10 and $1000. I for one have way too many TVs sitting around, and even if that weren't the case, if I was comfortable enough to loan it out, I'd be comfortable with losing it.

  6. My experience has always been that I give once and they just keep on asking.  My dad would have bled me dry had I not said I'm sorry enough!  .   I felt guilty so I kept giving even though I knew the money wasn't going to things I agreed with   I finally said if you need money for rent I will write your landlord a check or I will buy you food.  He stopped asking…

    • It sucks that you've had that experience! I can see why that would affect the way you feel about giving to others. I think your response was a smart one – if your dad truly needs help with NEEDS, you can help him directly instead of handing him money that might be used for something like alcohol.

  7. I don't give cash but I will give assistance such as food or a place to temporarily crash. Altruism is important, but you have to set limits both personally and financially.

    • I agree; you have to do what you're comfortable with. I have had a LOT of overnight guests for various reasons, and I enjoy opening my home to people when they need it. Obviously I wouldn't do that for just anyone but always for friends.

  8. Yes.  I think in many cases it only subsidizes bad behaviors making the altruistic nothing more than enablers. 

    • I’m gonna have to side with you on this one JT. OVERRATED. Altruism (more often than not) backfires because it doesn’t go to the root of the problem. When altruism does achieve the expected result (which is rare), I consider it as the exception that proves the rule.

      • But what about helping someone in the moment, not because you're trying to fix the root of the problem? If I give a starving person a cheeseburger, that doesn't solve their overall problem of not having enough to eat. But it sure makes a difference to them in that moment!

        • Donna Freedman says:

          The other day I was walking home from the store and gave a dollar to a guy with a "homeless vet" sign. He said, "Thanks, this will really help. I have a job tomorrow and I'm trying to get bus fare together."
          I happened to have a couple of vouchers with me for a free Big Mac, free French fries and free oatmeal, so I asked if he wanted them. (We were right across the street from McDonald's.) His face lit up. "Yes! Thank you!"
          So no, I didn't fix his life. But that moment was a little easier because he had guaranteed dinner (even if it was at McDonald's) and something for breakfast, too.

          • Those are the kind of gestures that I think matter most. You could have assumed he was buying beer or drugs and refused to give him anything. But by giving him what most would dismiss as, "Oh, it's nothing," you might have helped change the course of his life forever. That moment may only be a moment, but it's one I'm sure he'll remember.

    • What about people who aren't in a situation because of "bad behaviors"? Stop being an OMG BAD CHOICES troll. ūüėČ

  9. Anonymous says:

    I think you should follow your heart.  If at that time, you feel the desire to "bless" another individual, then you should do it. I believe you will be blessed in return.  And if the other person does not do the right thing …oh well, that is their Karma.  What matters is that you are true to yourself, and you did what your heart told you too. 

    • Agree 100%. I have to be able to live with myself, and that doesn't involve abandoning someone in need when my gut tells me to intervene. Some people don't feel compelled to help others the way I do, and that's fine. They have to do what they can live with, too.

  10. AmericanDebtProject says:

    That's such a sad story! I think if you are a giving person by nature, you shouldn't try to change that. It makes you who you are. You've certainly been giving with me! I've never been able to give a lot of money (or I've told myself that) so I've always tried to make up for it in other ways- I think I've edited every relative and friend's resume at least once, I always share my clothes, food, car, etc. I've never missed those things. I hope I never expect anything in return, giving feels best when you're not keeping count.

    • Good point. It's not always about money – I spend a lot of time removing computer viruses, pointing friends to resources, trading clothes, giving rides… And many of my friends have done similar favors for me.

  11. I think it all depends. I think first someone who gives someone else money has to realize that they are basically giving a gift; that "gift" shouldn't be expected to be returned unless the person who is receiving the money/item stresses that they will repay and makes arrangements. 

    Second; I think in today's society it is really hard to tell who NEEDS help over who just doesn't want to pay it themselves. I've run into that and scams and the such are always on the rise. 

    Third; You can't go giving away your life savings to someone (unless it is family thing you trust or you truly truly are in a situation that calls for it) but 9 out of 10 chances; you aren't going to just hand it over and say "I hope this helps!" You have to give what you can afford comfortably; and even still, sometimes it might run you thin. 

    However; going without an item or two or a daily "frugal" spending is different then not paying your bills because you're helping someone else. Giving up that $4 coffee (metaphorically speaking) every day for a month while helping out someone in need is attainable over plunking down $800 to them and then realizing you cannot pay your rent/electric/etc. 

    And last but not least; always remember; not matter how much you give and no matter how little you give there will ALWAYS be;

    Someone worse off then you.
    And someone who appreciates even $1 with much gratitude. 

    I'm stingy sometimes….a lot of the times. I try not to be; but it happens; I'm young, I have a house, it's just me working right now till my husband starts his job; I cannot "afford" to help others. But sometimes that little bit of "but…this person has nothing…" gets to me and I realize that; $5, $10, $20 dollars given is going to give them more then I need. Sure I need it, but it doesn't dictate where my next meal comes from; if I get a meal, or if I have to shiver in a cold house with no fuel or out on the streets, but it might dictate if they have to endure that. 

    This is also based heavily on people who truly need the help and not those who are just looking to get whatever they can out of everyone. 

    • I agree that giving should depend on level of need. If a friend truly needs money for something like food, there's no way I'm turning him/her down. But if a friend wanted money for something like concert tickets, sorry but I can't help with that. 

      Re: your current situation, I don't think it's stingy at all to hold on to your money, especially when it sounds like money is tight. You can't compromise your own life goals to help others no matter how much you may want to.

  12. It really depends on the situation.  I have a friend whose ex never send child support on time.  We have helped her with bills and food, she always pays us back eventually and we are ok with that.  Right now I am trying to help her build up a storage of food.

    My husband on the other hand had a friend who constantly depended on him for money.  I completely cut her out last year because she was borrowing money for food, cell phones, cable, going out..and we werent even doing half these things.  Funny thing is that when my husband stopped helping her she stopped calling him. 

    So I guess it just depends.  I go with my heart

    • Very well said! It depends on the situation, especially when the person tries to repay you when they can. There's a big difference between a friend in need and a mooch. Sounds like your husband's friend was just using you guys to supplement her income. How unfortunate when people will give up a friendship instead of learning to manage money.

  13. I think it all depends. I think first someone who gives someone else money has to realize that they are basically giving a gift; that “gift” shouldn’t be expected to be returned unless the person who is¬†receiving¬†the money/item stresses that they will repay and makes arrangements.¬†

    Second; I think in today’s society it is really hard to tell who NEEDS help over who just doesn’t want to pay it themselves. I’ve run into that and scams and the such are always on the rise.¬†

    Third; You can’t go giving away your life savings to someone (unless it is family thing you trust or you truly truly are in a situation that calls for it) but 9 out of 10 chances; you aren’t going to just hand it over and say “I hope this helps!” You have to give what you can afford comfortably; and even still, sometimes it might run you thin.¬†

    However; going without an item or two or a daily “frugal” spending is different then not paying your bills because you’re helping someone else. Giving up that $4 coffee (metaphorically¬†speaking) every day for a month while helping out someone in need is attainable over plunking down $800 to them and then realizing you cannot pay your rent/electric/etc.¬†

    And last but not least; always remember; not matter how much you give and no matter how little you give there will ALWAYS be;

    Someone worse off then you.
    And someone who appreciates even $1 with much gratitude. 

    I’m stingy sometimes….a lot of the times. I try not to be; but it happens; I’m young, I have a house, it’s just me working right now till my husband starts his job; I cannot “afford” to help others. But sometimes that little bit of “but…this person has nothing…” gets to me and I realize that; $5, $10, $20 dollars given is going to give them more then I need. Sure I need it, but it doesn’t dictate where my next meal comes from; if I get a meal, or if I have to shiver in a cold house with no fuel or out on the streets, but it might dictate if they have to endure that.¬†

    This is also based heavily on people who truly need the help and not those who are just looking to get whatever they can out of everyone. 

  14. I actually have stopped lending money to people. If I give money to people, I give it – I don't lend. I've been "bitten" one too many times, as seen on my vintage post yesterday. But that doesn't stop me from helping people in other ways – like you said, driving friends when they need it, doing favours for them, etc. I think it's a good thing, and I also think that it gives you good karma!

    • There's a definite distinction there. I'm the same way. One friend probably owes me $5000 by now and I probably owe just as much to him. But we don't keep score – when one needs something and the other can help, that's what we do. I know I can always rely on him in an emergency and he knows he can rely on me. When it's reciprocated, I can justify giving more easily.

  15. I only lend what I can afford to give away.  That way if I don't get it back it's not detrimental to my well-being.    I think if you are going to give, then give without expectation of getting anything back in return.  Then if nothing ever comes back, you are not disappointed.

    • True! Some people I know make the mistake of waiting to be repaid, then they're angry when it doesn't happen. When I give someone something, whether it's money or an item or whatever, I do it with the anticipation that I'll never see that again. If I do, it's a nice surprise!

  16. Serendipity Savings says:

    I used to give a lot more when I was younger. Although I didn't necessarily have a lot of parental support, when I was 17-18 I have about 1200 coming in a month due to work and survivor benefits from my mom's passing. Did anyone take the time to sit down and make a budget with me? Hell to the no. But, I think a lot of friends saw me as a ATM machine and I felt bad when certain people couldn't afford certain things. I always paid for them to do stuff because I felt bad and I would always give money if someone really needed it for certain things.
    Now, I'm a lot older and I've been burned more than a couple of times. I now would only freely give money to Rambo ( which makes sense because he's my fiancee), W and M. The buck stops there. I think it's a good thing to be a giver but due to always giving in the past, I'm very limited to who I give now. I'm jaded. 

  17. Personally, I don't give to people directly, but I do give through charitable organizations.  Having said that, if my neighbour's house burned down, of course I'd help – but it would be more likely that I'd give stuff than money. 

    I think it's fine to give to an individual if:
    – it's a one-time situation (fire, car accident that puts them off work for a while, etc.)
    – it's for needs, not wants (I'll help you get warm clothes, but not a new iPod)

    If it's recurring/predictable (e.g. can't pay the electricity bill), giving money is unlikely to really help.

    I do think, though, that if you give money you need to give it without strings attached – so if I give money to buy food and you buy an iPod, I can't complain about it (but you won't get money again).

    • You have summed up my philosophy WAY better than I did – I should've just let you write my post! Love this explanation – needs not wants, and I'll help you until you screw me over. Perfect.

  18. I was once told by someone in the psychology field, that we give because we are selfish. I was dumbfounded. HUH?
    When it was explained to me that I give because it makes me feel better (the recipient doesn't necessarily feel better than the giver)I started to give it some thought. My favorite charities are Christian Children's Fun and Habitat for Humanity. After a few years of thinking and trying to figure out why I kept giving when I didn't see any real results from my gifts, it struck me. I was giving because somehow, in a weird way, I benefited more than either of the my charities did. They got a few dollars from me, but I got satisfaction that somehow my little gift was helping (honestly, who really believes that $1 a day can feed, educate and clothe a child?).

    I once gave an old TV to someone I met on a train. We had been train buddies for months and once, the conversation turned to her finding her own home (trailer). Others on the train asked if she had what she needed and she had commented how she needed to find an inexpensive TV. Since I had an old one (3 yrs old, 35 inch big screen) taking up valuable garage space (and collecting dust), I offered it to her. She was ecstatic and so was her little girl.
    In exchange, I got to feel good about myself because I was helping someone out.

    So I still give. Not because it helps them, but because it helps me to remain selfish in good way.

    • I think there's a degree of truth in that. I do feel good about myself when I'm able to help someone, even if no one knows I did it. And that feeling can be addictive just like anything else. I try to keep it reasonable, but I'm glad I don't have tons of money because I'd probably give it all away and be mad at myself later.

  19. I was once told by someone in the psychology field, that we give because we are selfish. I was dumbfounded. HUH?
    When it was explained to me that I give because it makes me feel better (the recipient doesn't necessarily feel better than the giver)I started to give it some thought. My favorite charities are Christian Children's Fun and Habitat for Humanity. After a few years of thinking and trying to figure out why I kept giving when I didn't see any real results from my gifts, it struck me. I was giving because somehow, in a weird way, I benefited more than either of the my charities did. They got a few dollars from me, but I got satisfaction that somehow my little gift was helping (honestly, who really believes that $1 a day can feed, educate and clothe a child?).

    I once gave an old TV to someone I met on a train. We had been train buddies for months and once, the conversation turned to her finding her own home (trailer). Others on the train asked if she had what she needed and she had commented how she needed to find an inexpensive TV. Since I had an old one (3 yrs old, 35 inch big screen) taking up valuable garage space (and collecting dust), I offered it to her. She was ecstatic and so was her little girl.
    In exchange, I got to feel good about myself because I was helping someone out.

    So I still give. Not because it helps them, but because it helps me to remain selfish in good way.

  20. Elizabeth Ann says:

    My husband and I have been living very frugally for the past 2 years while he finishes college.  We use a cash envelope system for all variable expenses, we pay cash for school, and he receives zero benefits from his job.  We are prayerful people and hard workers.  I stay home with our 16 month old son and we're expecting our second child any day now.  The reason I say this is that we have received several unexpected gifts in the past year that have blessed us beyond imagination.  We hope to do the same for someone else very soon!
    We're both active in our church parish.  My husband is the head of the pastoral council and an active Knight of Columbus.  I sing in the choir.  I met with our pastor near Christmas-time to get his advice on an issue in our extended family.  As I was leaving our very fruitful meeting, he handed me a bag of chocolates and said, "Here's a small Christmas gift."  I thanked him and went home.  Later that night, I actually opened the bag and found a $200 prepaid gift card and $100 in grocery store gift cards.  I burst into tears.  I had been struggling with our budget and we really wanted to spend some days with our family over the holidays.  Wow. 
    A few weeks later, my husband's uncle died.  Our pastor was in the neighborhood visiting another family and called us to see if he could stop by for a few minutes.  We had a few laughs and out of nowhere, he pulls out a $50 bill and tells us that someone gave it to him and that he thought we could use it.  It was amazing because we had to drive 3 hours to our uncle's funeral and didn't have extra gas money in our envelope.  We couldn't have planned this event.  I had prayed for a solution the night before.
    Last week, another friend emailed me to ask if she could bring us a homecooked meal.  We're expecting a little one soon and she had extra time on her hands.  A few days later, she delivered a hot meal, complete with ice cream for dessert! 
    My husband and I are not destitute.  We don't look for handouts and we aren't on any government assistance.  We're just a family of 4 living in a 1 bedroom apartment, looking for ways to live within our means until more opportunities come down the road.  We are so thankful for the givers in our lives.  Most of these people just felt like blessing someone else, quite frankly.  I think that is the best way to give.  Think proactively about who you can bless.  Do it as a surprise, before an emergency happens.  We all know someone who could benefit from a gift—even if it isn't money.  Offer them prayers, a homecooked meal, babysitting hours, or donate blood.  If you don't have money, volunteer your time and pray for that person!  We're all capable of making the world a better place through our giving!

  21. Elizabeth Ann says:

    My husband and I have been living very frugally for the past 2 years while he finishes college.¬† We use a cash envelope system for all variable expenses, we pay cash for school, and he receives zero benefits from his job.¬† We are prayerful people and hard workers.¬† I stay home with our 16 month old son and we’re expecting our second child any day now.¬† The reason I say this is that we have received several unexpected gifts in the past year that have blessed us beyond imagination.¬† We hope to do the same for someone else very soon!
    We’re both active in our church parish.¬† My husband is the head of the pastoral council and an active Knight of Columbus.¬† I sing in the choir.¬† I met with our pastor near Christmas-time to get his advice on an issue in our extended family.¬† As I was leaving our very fruitful meeting, he handed me a bag of chocolates and said, “Here’s a small Christmas gift.”¬† I thanked him and went home.¬† Later that night, I actually opened the bag and found a $200 prepaid gift card and $100 in grocery store gift cards.¬† I burst into tears.¬† I had been struggling with our budget and we really wanted to spend some days with our family over the holidays.¬† Wow.¬†
    A few weeks later, my husband’s uncle died.¬† Our pastor was in the neighborhood visiting another family and called us to see if he could stop by for a few minutes.¬† We had a few laughs and out of nowhere, he pulls out a $50 bill and tells us that someone gave it to him and that he thought we could use it.¬† It was amazing because we had to drive 3 hours to our uncle’s funeral and didn’t have extra gas money in our envelope.¬† We couldn’t have planned this event.¬† I had prayed for a solution the night before.
    Last week, another friend emailed me to ask if she could bring us a homecooked meal.¬† We’re expecting a little one soon and she had extra time on her hands.¬† A few days later, she delivered a hot meal, complete with ice cream for dessert!¬†
    My husband and I are not destitute.¬† We don’t look for handouts and we aren’t on any government assistance.¬† We’re just a family of 4 living in a 1 bedroom apartment, looking for ways to live within our means until more opportunities come down the road.¬† We are so thankful for the givers in our lives.¬† Most of these people just felt like blessing someone else, quite frankly.¬† I think that is the best way to give.¬† Think proactively about who you can bless.¬† Do it as a surprise, before an emergency happens.¬† We all know someone who could benefit from a gift—even if it isn’t money.¬† Offer them prayers, a homecooked meal, babysitting hours, or donate blood.¬† If you don’t have money, volunteer your time and pray for that person!¬† We’re all capable of making the world a better place through our giving!

  22. Elizabeth Ann says:

    My husband and I have been living very frugally for the past 2 years while he finishes college.¬† We use a cash envelope system for all variable expenses, we pay cash for school, and he receives zero benefits from his job.¬† We are prayerful people and hard workers.¬† I stay home with our 16 month old son and we’re expecting our second child any day now.¬† The reason I say this is that we have received several unexpected gifts in the past year that have blessed us beyond imagination.¬† We hope to do the same for someone else very soon!
    We’re both active in our church parish.¬† My husband is the head of the pastoral council and an active Knight of Columbus.¬† I sing in the choir.¬† I met with our pastor near Christmas-time to get his advice on an issue in our extended family.¬† As I was leaving our very fruitful meeting, he handed me a bag of chocolates and said, “Here’s a small Christmas gift.”¬† I thanked him and went home.¬† Later that night, I actually opened the bag and found a $200 prepaid gift card and $100 in grocery store gift cards.¬† I burst into tears.¬† I had been struggling with our budget and we really wanted to spend some days with our family over the holidays.¬† Wow.¬†
    A few weeks later, my husband’s uncle died.¬† Our pastor was in the neighborhood visiting another family and called us to see if he could stop by for a few minutes.¬† We had a few laughs and out of nowhere, he pulls out a $50 bill and tells us that someone gave it to him and that he thought we could use it.¬† It was amazing because we had to drive 3 hours to our uncle’s funeral and didn’t have extra gas money in our envelope.¬† We couldn’t have planned this event.¬† I had prayed for a solution the night before.
    Last week, another friend emailed me to ask if she could bring us a homecooked meal.¬† We’re expecting a little one soon and she had extra time on her hands.¬† A few days later, she delivered a hot meal, complete with ice cream for dessert!¬†
    My husband and I are not destitute.¬† We don’t look for handouts and we aren’t on any government assistance.¬† We’re just a family of 4 living in a 1 bedroom apartment, looking for ways to live within our means until more opportunities come down the road.¬† We are so thankful for the givers in our lives.¬† Most of these people just felt like blessing someone else, quite frankly.¬† I think that is the best way to give.¬† Think proactively about who you can bless.¬† Do it as a surprise, before an emergency happens.¬† We all know someone who could benefit from a gift—even if it isn’t money.¬† Offer them prayers, a homecooked meal, babysitting hours, or donate blood.¬† If you don’t have money, volunteer your time and pray for that person!¬† We’re all capable of making the world a better place through our giving!

  23. Donna Freedman says:

    I'm owed quite a bit of money right now and thus have finally admitted to myself that it is time to close the bank. My struggle with this decision was the subject of one of my columns at Get Rich Slowly, "How much do we owe others? And when should we walk away?" Judging from the comments, plenty of other people are in the situation you describe.
    If it's kosher to post URLs, here goes: http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2011/09/12/how-

  24. OK. So I have some thoughts about this and I'm sorry I'm a little late getting them out there.
    Altruism is DIFFERENT from destructive giving. Destructive giving is giving away things you can't afford and being so open and share-happy that you end up hurt, in debt, or in some type of trouble: IE, giving away your not-yet-paid off car to a friend without thinking of that friend behaving irresponsibly with your car.

    Giving said friend a ride isn't as bad or as destructive. All you lose is some time and you are still the one on charge of your own car. If you can afford to give it, then that is all that matters. Your friend who is worried about other people getting ahead at your expense needs to be gently reminded that your money/time/resources, your biz. Well, that is as long as you continue to live your own life and keep yourself in a good state.

  25. No, it's not a bad thing.

  26. Great post; I feel torn about it. It's a bit easier to draw the line with friends, but it's hard to say no to family sometimes. I've been burned, but I've also been able to help good people too who've had a one time crisis. I've been on both sides of the table and I know how hard it is to even for help. 

    I eventually decided not to loan others money. I'll give gifts and make sure its not going to hurt my family's finances. If they pay it back, great. If not, I'm not upset. 

  27. This reminds me of a study the Economist highlighted where a group of people were each given a different amount of money, separated by one dollar, and everyone was told who got what. They were then given two more dollars with the instructions to give the money to someone else. The people who were second to the bottom were more likely to give it to the people "richer" than them. This suggests a "last place aversion," which is I think the mentality of your friend (don't want to see others pass you by).

  28. elizabethq says:

    I've subscribed to your blog, but don't really comment often. I would say if you can afford to give for the right reasons and to the right people (not moochers), then that's great. Helping others doesn't have to involve giving money. I can't afford to donate money, so I donate either my time or old but good clothes and toys to organizations that help those in need.

    • Thanks for de-lurking, Elizabeth! I agree with you completely. Most people appreciate a non-monetary gift much more than just handing them $20 or something. And time is worth even more. Thanks so much for sharing your opinion.

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