Commentary By: Dean P. Johnson, Editor, Follow South Jersey
In Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol, the narrator describes Ebenezer Scrooge as “a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone…a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had struck out generous fire.” Scrooge’s sole purpose was to accumulate and hoard wealth.
In contrast, Scrooge’s former boss, Mr. Fezziwig, is described as having “the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in…things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count ‘em up; what then? The happiness he gives is quite as great as if it costs a fortune.”
As a society, we have a choice to be a Fezziwig or a Scrooge. A good litmus test for how caring and moral our society is overall (Scrooge or Fezziwig) is to see how our society’s most vulnerable people are doing.
As of January 2020, there were 580,466 people experiencing homelessness in America, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. In New Jersey, currently there are nearly 8,100 people experiencing homelessness, according to the New Jersey 2021 Point In Time Count, and in the six South Jersey counties, there are nearly 1,300 homeless.
According to 2019 statistics from the US Census Bureau, there were over 34 million, or 10.5% of all Americans living in poverty. Close to 13 million children in America live in “food insecure” homes, according to No Kid Hungry.
November 30 is GivingTuesday, a day when people around the world are encouraged to gather through acts of generosity offering their talents to the less fortunate whether goods, money, time, or advocacy in support of community services.
GivingTuesday began in 2012 as a day encouraging people to do good. According to Wikipedia, the “initiative was the brainchild of Henry Timms at the 92nd Street Y in New York [and the] co-founding organization was the United Nations Foundation with strong support from BLK SHP (Black Sheep),” a foundation that started at Pixar Animation Studios in 2012 to support innovative ideas.
In 2020, according to Giving USA, Americans gave a record $471 billion to charities. And while that number sound quite significant, the website Definefinancial.com highlights ten statistics that they found most interesting in the research and studies they used in their research on the acts of giving:
- Giving in 2020 rose despite the pandemic putting millions out of work
- Only a fraction (20%) of donations come from corporations
- Those making less than $50,000 a year give more in relation to total income than those in all other income ranges except the highest earners
- Religious giving is lower today than it was during the Great Depression
- Mormons donate more than any other Christian group, while Jewish individuals outdo all other religious givers
- 7 of the nation’s top ten states for charitable giving are in the south
- 2020 saw a huge 20% increase in online giving
- The least likely reason for people to give is so they can get a tax break
- Pfizer was America’s most generous company last year
- Moms aged 35-44 were last year’s top volunteer group
The US is one of the richest countries in the world and yet over one-tenth of its population goes hungry. The fact that there is still so many living in poverty tells us that we have much work to do, and that work can begin today.
Of course, giving should not end on Tuesday. Anyone who has been fortunate whether from having the opportunity to work hard, receiving an inheritance, or by just plain dumb luck, has an obligation to help those less fortunate, those in need, those who are often marginalized, villainized, and ignored in our society.
Some giving opportunities right here in South Jersey can be found here or look for others in your own hometown.
We all know of Scrooge’s conversion came only after he had a glimpse of the future. Our society’s future will be as ominous unless we, as a community, become a Fezziwig.
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