Advice: In Hard Times, "Give More" – UPDATED

He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums.
A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents.
Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury.
For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”
— Mark 12:41-44

Sometimes I get emails from people who are anticipating a bad result of a biopsy, or have put themselves into a terrible state of fretfulness and worry for some other reason, and they ask me to pray for them. And I do, because I am always happy to pray for someone; it is my privilege.

But sometimes I’ll also give them a little job to do in exchange: I’ll ask them, in all their anxiety, to pray for someone else who desperately needs prayers.

I’ll give them a very specific case to pray for, usually by name: a little girl with leukemia, a soldier who is gravely wounded, a family facing joblessness. I tell them that praying for others will help them to use up the anxious energy, and regain some perspective, and that’s true, but I also ask them to do it because I know the prayers they say for others will help them in their own lives.

Invariably, every single time I have asked worried people to pray for someone else, they have written back to say that the utterly selfless act of praying for a stranger’s concerns had lightened their own burden and brought peace to their souls and a broader, more positive perspective to their outlook.

This is important. This is something you need to remember when things get difficult for us as a nation, or for you personally.

In addition to emails asking for prayer, I’ve lately received a slew of emails saying, basically, “I’m freaking out! The country is screwed! What are we going to do!” These people are every bit as worried, fretful and unfocused in their anxiety as those worried about health and livelihood.

And so I’m giving them (and you, if you are feeling this anxiety) a little job to do: make some charitable donations, today, and in the coming weeks and months; as much and as often as you reasonably can. I’m serious.

My mother, who was a colorful sort, taught me some good habits and some bad ones. One of the good ones was that “God is never outdone in generosity.”

Come to think of it, Bernadette Soubirous, who I wrote about this morning, also used to say something similar.

But since I heard it first from Mother – who was very generous, some would say foolishly so – I’ll credit her. “God is never outdone in generosity,” she would say, “so when you’re down on your luck, don’t worry about giving to others who are also struggling, and don’t even think twice about it.”

As I wrote last September, I have found this to be true in my life – that God is never outdone in generosity. I believe it and I also trust in it, and therefore freely cast bread upon the waters.

This is part of having “childlike faith”, which Christ tells us we must have. It is part of trusting. It is part of considering the lillies of the field.

Unemployment is at 7.9% – that’s not awful, but it’s higher than we’re used to. We’re all tense – we’re listening to an agent of “hope and change” do nothing but preach “catastrophe” at every whistlestop, even as he refuses to listen to alternatives from within his own party or to consider compromise – “it’s my plan or nothing.” We hear it and realize that whatever else that is, it’s not leadership – so we’re sort of on our own. We’re watching our banks and our industries teeter and our government experiment and “try things we’ve never tried before” with the entire economy.

So, scary times, huh?

Yes. We have 800 Billion reason to be worried, and not just about the economy.

All the more reason to consider making a charitable donationhowever small – to the sorts of organizations that anyone can turn to in time of need. Bring some food to your local food pantry, regardless of what church it’s at – bring a small bag every week, if you can, of just a few items; pasta, beans, tuna, diapers, even toilet paper and feminine products.

If you can, while you can, put an extra fiver in the collection plate – that’s like 70 cents a day, and it will help them to help others when people start turning up needing help with their bills, or with putting gas in the car to go to work (or to go look for work.) If you have the ability to make a larger gift, make it now, while you can. God will not be outdone in generosity.

If – unlike anyone I know – you have the means to do something like this, yes do it; don’t forget those people who truly serve all of us, and the whole world, with their constant prayers.

Since most of us do not have such monies
, small checks can help. Buying the excellent goods that such houses offer, helps too. It keeps them alive and available to us when we seek them out for their prayers, their counsel and their open hearts. I’ve never known a monastery to turn away someone in need. Anyway they can help, they will.

And – as Mother Mary Francis, PPC explains in her book The Right to be Merry – eventually the men and women of prayer will be under the gun, themselves, because history has a way of repeating itself:

The children of light walk heedless of the source of their light. The children of darkness know better. And when the hour of darkness is at hand in any country, the first act of the powers of evil is invariably to throw the switch. They raze the cloisters. They turn the contemplatives out of their monasteries with loud speeches about the good of the state and about contributing to the social need. [...]

By a strange paradox, the persecutors of religion are always far more spiritual-minded than the common run of humanity. It is a perversion of spirituality, but it is a kind of spiritual vision, nonetheless. One has to be very spiritual-minded to grasp the true meaning of the cloistered contemplative vocation, very convinced of the supernatural values to understand its supreme significance for the universal Church. Those who hold power in communist-dominated countries have a very comprehensive grasp of it. They understand its significance quite perfectly. If they sometimes draw red herrings of “national churches” across their atheistic paths, they dare not deal even in half-measures with cloisters. We shall grow old and die waiting for Russia or (Communist) China to set up “national cloisters.”


I know this will strike some as an odd post
– it is a little odd – a strange thing to hear someone say, “yes, times are scary, so go make a donation, somewhere.” But despair is not the way of faith. Trust is. And trust does foolish things like donating to charities while worrying about one’s own job.

When you are feeling afraid, an action denoting trust always makes you feel less fearful and more powerful, whether it is praying for another or writing a check for $20.00 that you suspect you may need, yourself, down the road. It is an action that helps one get in touch with the wider world, and with feelings of selflessness, engagement and wisdom. It’s like shoring up for hard times – filling the corn cribs, so to speak – for the famine on the horizon.

And too – from a less exalted, more earthly perspective – if the government is going to decide for you how your money is to be spent, and on what projects, well…making contributions on your own is a way to, like Rahm Emmanuel, thumb your nose at all that>/em>. “I’m giving my money to this outreach program. Less for you to throw aimlessly around, Mrs. Pelosi…and I’ll take that tax deduction…”

If times are going to get harder, and seriously, that seems to be less a dreaded outcome than a damn goal for some in leadership, start taking care of the folks who may end up taking care of you or someone you know. And always remember the ones who pray for us.

And, after you’ve made a donation, find someone who needs your prayers, and pray for them. Even if you really can’t afford to give so much as a dime to charity, you can always pray. Prayer is a subversive liberty; it is freedom because no one can touch it, monitor it or forbid it. Or tax it, spend it or waste it. So pray for someone, or some group. Commit to it. You will feel better. I promise, you will. Don’t be afraid.

UPDATE: Reader Juli has mentioned and linked to Modest Needs, which I had never seen before, and which intrigues me. If you send me some of your favorite, little-known charities (besides your parish/church organizations), I’ll link to them here, or you can leave them in the comments section. Another reader has suggested Noah’s Wish, a nicely named outfit that rescues animals in disaster areas.

UPDATE II - A Plea for Help: And if you’re looking for someone to pray for, an Anchoress reader has a nephew gone missing. She is asking for prayers and – if you’re in the Ft. Bragg area – eyes peeled.

UPDATE III: Reader Susan writes to tell about a couple in Seattle who decommission oil tanks and give the oil to those in need. Wonderful. 206-365-0291; Check them out.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • JuliB

    As I sit here mourning and weeping in this vale of tears, I will click over to and give money to someone who needs help this very minute.

    My only connection to this wonderful charity is to be a happy donor. The families I donate to also go on my prayer list. I hope I haven’t posted improperly, dear Anchoress.

    I suggest we all consider donating to someone who brings up cheer and reminds us to left up our hearts on a daily basis. So I will hit the paypal button for you as well.

    [Edited to insert link. Juli - Modest Needs sounds wonderful and I have linked to them in the post, and am inviting others to suggest their favorite "little known" charities as well. I thank you for the idea of donating to The Anchoress Online, but please know that was NOT my intention in writing this. I'm really suggesting folks donate where the money will help others, particularly locally. I thank you - you are very kind, and I don't want to seem ungracious, because I am really very humbled, but please know I wasn't rattling the tin cup! -admin]

  • http://spreadingolive.blogspot.com Elizabeth Anne

    It’s explicitly NOT a charity, but maybe something better, in many ways: check out Kiva. They’re a microloan group. You can log in, look at people around the world’s proposals, and offer them loans as small as 25 dollars.
    http://www.kiva.org/

    Almost 98% of the loans are paid back in full, and you get to help out people who need it while giving them the self respect and pride of building their own businesses. While we’re panicking about things here, it can be amazing to realize just how little people in other parts of the world need to dramatically change their lives.

  • JuliB

    I would like to point out that I found out about Modest Needs via Forbes magazine, and it was a VERY flattering article.

    The only issue I have is that you can look up ‘Military Families’ as a tag for Needs, and not get anything back. However, if you page through the requests, you will see Veteran in the titles. According to the people I emailed, they have 3 tags for a given request, and their specialists will determine the 3 tags for a request.

    It seems to me that if someone mentions that they are a veteran in the subject, THEY know it’s something people will respond to. Oh well. It’s my only nit to pick.

    And when someone you donate to gets funded, and they send in a thank you, they will forward it on to all donors. Some of the ones I have read have made me cry.

  • http://jmbalconi.stblogs.com Jean Balconi

    In Southwest Michigan, I recommend the Capuchin Soup Kitchen. They’ve been feeding the hungry in Detroit since the Great Depression, running a substance-abuse service, and re-introducing urban sustenance farming. http://www.cskdetroit.org/services.cfm

    They and the St. Vincent de Paul Society are my favourite charities.

  • dmd25

    Anchoress,

    This is not at all an odd post—this is a perfect post. I hope it finds many readers who then become doers! Excellent. Thank you.

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  • stephanie

    Thank you, Anchoress & Juli, for sending us to Modest Needs.
    What a great charity! I’m delighted to sign up and donate. It’s something I’ve been needing to do- giving really feeds the soul.

  • Buckeye1947

    Like Jean I support the St. Vincent de Paul society. It serves the local poor, folks who may be your neighbors.

  • dellbabe68

    As a professional fundraiser for non-profits, I so appreciate this post.

    Giving is always better than receiving and it’s gotten to where it’s like catnip for me to be able to make a gift. I love knowing I made a difference, and am in awe of those who give way more than me.

    A few favorites:

    Soldiers’ Angels – support deployed personnel in spades. I’ve been a volunteer there for five years and it’s changed my life. You can write to soldiers, adopt one “until they come home,” visit at Walter Reed, pay tribute at a military funeral, bring food to someone who is doing a transport to bring a loved one to their wounded soldier, fly a plane to transport a soldier all the way home, visit vets in a local VA. It’s endless and Patti who runs the group runs with any idea you have that you’re willing to put elbow grease behind. They give backpacks filled with personal supplies to all wounded at Landstahl Medical Center in Germany. A backpack is $50 and contains about twenty kinds of toiletries, shorts and sweatpants, a phone card, socks, undies, and a quilt/blanket made by someone in the US.
    Project Valour – IT is a project that brngs voice activated laptops to soldiers who have suffered serious injuries which prevent them from using a computer. Helps them to keep in touch with loved ones.

    Caring Bridge. A site that allows people who have a loved one suffering form an illness to have an easy to use website they can manage and use to communicate with loved ones about their person’s progress. I personally have found this invaluable with my Mom, but I knew of it through soldiers who’s families have posted about them after they were wounded.

    Rolling Dog Ranch – a Montana ranch run by a married couple who left the world of being VP’s for a corporation and now run a ranch that accepts dogs and horses with major disabilities. They spend about $60,000 a year in vet bills and funded this with their own money. A very fine organization with a BIG heart. They take long term volunteers! You can send anything from dog treats, to bedding, to wee-wee pads. Check out their website and get their e-newsletter.

    Another new favorite is the Order of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Hopedale, Ohio. A NEW (founded in 1997) contemplative order that still makes time to visit people in nursing homes in the afternoon. It’s an interesting model of order, too, in that it has brothers, priests, one deacon, and sisters. They are set up like a family on a ranch. Great group of people who are looking to expand.

    Of course the Mystic Monks are building a new monestary! They want to buy the land next to them. Land is not that expensive in Wyoming, but there’s a lot of it.

    ASPCA – they have many local chapters. This group is an all purpose on-behalf-of-animals group. They do direct action (I’ve called them about a skunk caught and they responded that day), a legislative group that works on improving the lives of dogs at puppy mills, and they have an adoptive arm, too.

    USO – needs us! The soldiers get a lot out of people going over to perform for them. Your money allows that to continue. It’s expensive to bring equipment over there, arrange schedules, and put on big shows!

    Hemets to Hardhats. Trains returning soldiers to become construction workers and helps them find work.

    Any Soldier dot com – sadly, only 2% of readers of their site give, but they have a great system for the public being able to support whole units of soldiers. Fine group. Marty has run this group from his heart from the beginning.

    Naval Special Warfare Foundation – a foundation that supports the SEALs (Navy special ops people), a group not typically supported by many outside their insular community. This group aids families (mostly children) of fallen SEALs and helps with tuition, computers, and functions for them to attend.

    I was happy to see someone else list Capuchins. I love these guys. They run my church in NY and I just absolutely love my Church.

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  • fraydna52

    What a wonderful post – just the balm for my soul in troubled times. My prayer is to never lose compassion for the needy and to have eyes and ears open to those I can help.

    I actually work for a small nonprofit in Nashville, TN that supports families with premature babies in NICU’s in the city. We offer peer counseling and work to develop bonding between parents and babies that are born too soon in spite of the limitations that exist for a few days to several weeks or months.

    Here is a link to our organization – we don’t have a flashy web site, but 87 cents of every dollar given goes directly to help families:

    http://www.parentsreachout.org/

  • dellbabe68

    I’m not trying to push only this charity but today I got their e-newsletter and there’s a story about Dexter T Dickins, an old and toothless daschund that needed to be adopted.
    Here it is. Know that he has a good home on this Montana ranch.

    Here’s a link to all their dogs. Each are named according to his or her disability (in a way)

  • Mimsy

    Anchoress, I bought two copies of your book on Amazon through your website. And thanks for your reminder to pray for others in need. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own miseries that we forget that we can ease the burdens of others. Since tomorrow is St. Valentine’s Day, let me offer this little prayer of gratitude: Heavenly Father, as our thoughts turn to love, we thank you for showing us what love truly is…the ultimate sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ. May His Grace shine upon you and your readers!

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