After reading my essay on “Both/And Philanthropy,” one of my friends told me that there was something I was leaving out of my hybrid approach. Here’s how I said that I balance attentiveness to material and spiritual goods:
And when it comes to the fundamental divide between Beer and MacAskill, for my own part, I like to hybridize their global vs local approaches. When I have the opportunity to do something for someone close to me (e.g. defraying a friend-of-a-friend’s medical costs, donating to a cause they favor, or sending flowers to someone I care about) I usually make a matching donation to one of the causes that MacAskill favors.
I don’t focus so much on the good my money can do that I let myself treat what I can do with my time and with my love as a rounding error. Instead, I let my empathy fuel two good deeds—one for the person I love, one for someone I won’t have the opportunity to meet and love.
My friend (whose argument I’m paraphrasing) said that my approach might do a good job harnessing the loves I currently experience, it doesn’t do much to help me grow in love.
Here’s the lacuna she saw in my approach: My caritas-informed charity will all be aimed at people I already know or friends of friends — people who are a lot like me, whom I don’t need to do much work to empathize with. My efficiency-oriented charity will all be targeted to faceless people far away, whose paths I will never cross and whom I will never know in their particularity.
In my schema, I don’t really wind up encountering a person whose needs are the beginning of our relationship, where the need that connects us could wind up teaching me to love someone whose life is different than mine. (And, I’d add to my friend’s critique, I also have left out any opportunities to offer my need to new people, too).
One option is to work harder at seeing, understanding, and responding to the needs of the people who are already in my life, but whom don’t feel warmly about or just plain don’t like. The harder option is to be more open with exactly those people with my own needs and struggles, so that our relationship would be rooted in their charity toward me.
They might not be at the extremes of “different from me” but they are examples where my knowing doesn’t engender love, so I’ve got a flaw to work on.
The trouble is, I’m way too much of a wuss to actually offer my own honest needs to people I don’t get along with, and it’s pretty unreasonable to expect them to offer vulnerabilities if I won’t.
Have you folks succeeded in learning to stretch the limits of your love? What worked for you?