Who really cares: Who gives, who doesn’t and why it matters.

Published 10:12 pm Saturday, December 2, 2006

A couple of years ago I wrote a column titled, “We Should be Proud of Mississippi” because ours had proven to be the most generous state in the nation. According to the Catalogue for Philanthropy, a Massachusetts research group that encourages giving, the Bible Belt states, headed by Mississippi, had given more than the other sections of the country by a wide margin. The study measured the disparity between a state’s wealth and its donations. Ranking 49th in wealth, Mississippi was 6th in donations, making us the most generous state in the union. Well, a book has just been published which, again, documents the fact that the southern states are far more generous than the northern states.
The book, Who Really Cares: Who Gives, Who Doesn’t, and Why it matters, was written by Arthur C. Brooks who admits that, when he started the project, he was sure that the more liberal northern section of the country would prove to be more charitable in their private donations than the conservative states. In fact, when the figures showed otherwise, he felt he had misread the data and proceeded to get new information and rerun the data only to arrive at the same conclusion. He had no choice but to admit that the conservative South was far more generous in its giving than the more liberal North. Brooks identifies the motivations behind American charity as being strong families, church attendance, earning one’s own income as opposed to receiving welfare, and the belief that the best answer to society’s problems rests with individuals and not with the government.
In spite of their lower income averages, conservative households in America donate 30% more money to charity each year than liberal households.
Conservatives spend more time doing volunteer work and offer more personal service. For example they give more blood. If the liberals matched them, the blood supply in the nation would jump 45%.
In comparison to secularists religious people give a whopping four times more money each year, they give 10% more to nonreligious causes and they are 57% more likely to help a homeless person. Also, religious people are more inclined to assist other family members.
Individuals raised in intact religious families give 9% more to charity than divorced parents and 29% more than never-married parents.
A poor working family without welfare support gives, on average, more than three times as much money each year as a family on welfare with the same average income. It is not being poor that discourages giving. It is being on welfare that discourages giving.
Oh, yes, Americans give far more money and volunteer far more than any European country. In fact, the average American family gives three times as much as the average French family, seven times as much as the average German family, and 14 times as much as the average Italian family.
Charitable giving has a positive effect on the economy of the nation. A $1 increase in giving per person would increase the GNP in the amount of $19 Per person.
Giving also has a positive effect on the giver. Overall they are happier, physically healthier, and are better citizens by any standard.
To conclude, giving is not only of great benefit to the needy but also benefits the giver and the nation.
You might have read the story in last weeks Picayune Item in which “The Secret Santa has revealed his identity”. He is Larry Stewart, a business man from Lee’s Summit Missouri who made millions in cable television and long distance telephone service. Several years ago, when he first began his Christmas giving, he handed out five and ten dollar bills but the amount increased to the point that lately he has been handing out one hundred dollar bills, sometime two or three at a time Mr. Stewart has traveled with selected well known athletes who help him distribute his money. This year he has enlisted Dick Butkus to join him in Chicago. They expect to give out $100,000 between Chicago and Kansas City. Four “Secret Santas” that Stewart trained will hand out an additional $65,000.
I loved the details of the story and was pleased but not really surprised to learn that this generous man’s home town is Bruce, Mississippi. I understand that he, sadly, has been diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus and liver. I’m sure he would appreciate the prayers of fellow Christians for his treatment at Anderson in Houston as well as his plan to speak to community groups about donating time and money. “That’s what we are here for” he explained, “ to help other people out.”
The story reminded me of a poem I heard when I was a youngster. I had not thought about it for ages but it went somewhat like this:
“Giving is living” the good angel said,
“So give to the hungry sweet charity’s bread.”
“And must I keep giving my whole life through?”
“Just give til the good Lord stops giving to you.”
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good word and deed. 2 Thessalonians 2:16,17
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.
— 1st Corinthians 2:9

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