Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Restless Charity Syndrome

This is the time of year when my college does its Combined Charities Campaign and I have to decide which charities I'll donate to over the next year.

There's a booklet that lists hundreds of eligible charities. It's funny to me all the different ways you can define "charity" by flipping through the book.
  • There's the traditional sense of giving to those less fortunate than you. Organizations that fight against hunger, disease, homelessness, and child abuse, for example, are pretty straightforward. I don't think there's much controversy about donating money to help starving abused homeless children with AIDS.

  • And then there are the partisan charities. Organizations that diametrically oppose each other. For example, I could contribute to gay rights organizations or Christian organizations (ahem, the Mormon Church) that fight against those rights. Planned Parenthood vs. Catholic Charities. Is it really "charity" that I'm doing if someone else is funneling just as much money into stopping my cause?

  • There are charities that support jazz, dance, art centers, zoos, gardens, museums, even public radio and TV. I don't have a problem with supporting these things, but it's hard for me to call a donation to public radio "charity." For me, it's more like supporting something that I enjoy.
I usually select four or five charities and have a set amount deducted from each paycheck to go to them. I take this all very seriously and spend quite a while flipping through the booklet trying to find the best balance for my donation dollar. I don't want to give it all to one cause, or even one type of cause. So I'll usually pick one environmental cause, one civil/human rights cause, one housing cause, and one international cause.

While I was looking at my options, scanning things about AIDS, cancer, animal rights, hunger, conservation, adoption, autism, and food banks, one cause jumped out at me: restless leg syndrome.

Are you kidding me?

For all I know, it may be a serious and debilitating condition, but of all the hundreds of ways to donate my money, you want me to consider something that sounds like an affliction from a Monty Python skit?

Oh, Restless Leg Syndrome, do you have any idea what you're up against?


Dan S said...

I have restless brain syndrome. Maybe you can just give me some money right now.

Maybe it should be called Combined Charity/Advocacy/Good Deeds Campaign.

Advocacy isn't the same as charity, but it's still important. However, it does seem wierd to have a setup where people's donations essentially cancel each other out. On the other hand, for something like gay rights, it's incredibly important to keep up in the money race. They say Prop 8 passed in California because of all the money the Mormons spent on it...

Tim said...

They say Prop 8 passed in California because of all the money the Mormons spent on it...

Yeah, that's what I was referring to when I wrote "(ahem, the Mormon Church)."

They could also call it the the Tax Deductible Gifts Campaign.

janet said...

My mother in law has restless leg syndrome and it is actually very painful. She has to take a Percocet or Demoral or one of those heavy duty narcotics just to get out of bed in the morning. It is a type of fibromyalgia.

Tim said...

Janet, I don't doubt that it's a serious condition. I just think it has an unfortunate name that will prevent it from getting donation dollars when it competes with all the other charities. If they called it "lower fibromyalgia" or something like that, it would probably do much better. It's hard to take "restless legs" seriously.