Passive Charity?

One of the comments I read the other day in response to my “Do Good” post talked about “passive charity” — that was the term the reader used regarding contributing to charity when it costs little in time or money (like using a search engine that donates to charity with each search).

Passive charity.  Hmmm.  Hold that thought.

The other day, my husband was complaining about the travel coffee cups I bought him for his morning coffee.   My goal was to cut down on our use of styrofoam.  He said the cups weren’t as “comfortable” and when I was unsympathetic, he asked me, “Why do you want me to suffer?”  My response to him was that I don’t want him to suffer, but sometimes suffering is necessary.  If everyone would do their part, then we could all be comfortable.  But since so many people don’t do their part, those of us who feel burdened by the problems of the world need to do MORE than our part.  Sometimes that giving or doing more causes us to suffer, but it’s for a greater good. 

Back to passive charity.  I don’t want anyone to think I’m advocating only passive charity or that passive charity is enough.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s a bare minimum — why wouldn’t you do something to improve the world when it costs you nothing in the way of time or money?!  But I think we need to do MORE than passive charity. 

Sometimes we can’t give in the way of money, but we can in the way of time or effort.  For instance, I’d love to write a thousand dollar check to World Wildlife Fund every month.  I can’t.  But I can pick up trash when I walk across the parking lot as I go into the store or when I exercise.  I can recycle everything I can get my hands on.   I can do a million other things to contribute to improving the environment.  Best of all, I can be an example to others. 

In fact, sometimes you don’t realize what example you’re setting.  One day, I was on my way into the grocery store.  As is my custom, I grabbed a stray shopping cart (buggy if you live in the South) and pushed it to the store entrance, filling it with trash from the parking lot on the way.  I didn’t go out of my way at all, but I picked up whatever trash I passed and tossed in the can by the door.  A few minutes later, I saw a middle aged, “casual business” dressed man following me in the store.  He was grinning.  I thought, “Oh no.  Why do I attract the goofs all the time?”  After following me for about 5 minutes, he came up to me and said, “I saw what you did!”  Huh?  “I saw you bring the loose cart to the store and pick up trash along the way.”  Whew.  “I just wanted you to know you’ve inspired me to do something good today, something that no one notices.”  Wow.  To be honest, my first thought after he left was, “Thank God he caught me doing something good.  I’d hate to think what others have seen me doing that I wouldn’t want them to see!” 

I also recently had a gentlemen with whom we do business tell me that I’ve “guilted” him into being a better recycler.  He said he felt so guilty whenever he threw out a box that it was finally easier to recycle that deal with “my voice in his head”.   Truthfully, I don’t really remember talking to him about recycling, but I must have at some point.

Your cause may not be the environment, although I think everyone needs to care to some extent in order to be good stewards of the earth God gave us.  But whatever your cause is — what makes you mad or sad as Mark Batterson says — get creative in thinking how you can go beyond the bare minimum to make the world a better place.  The bare minimum of passive charity is good, but don’t pat yourself on the back so much that you don’t suffer a little, too.  Write a check, get involved, give your time and effort, set an example.

One of my favorite quotes is by Gandhi, “We must become the change we want to see in the world.” 


By the way, speaking of Mark Batterson, don’t forget to send your name and address to to be entered in the drawing for Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson.  The book will be released tomorrow and I will draw a name on August 22, 2008.  Some lucky person will receive a free copy of this great book.  But you can’t win if you don’t enter.



  1. lyndy said

    maybe the reason your hubby felt the cup is not comfortable is because he has man hands. It is good to be ‘one with the cup’ so you will not spill. if he spills hot coffee… it could be a law suit…..

  2. Carol said

    There is a website: started by Mary Robinson Reynolds where people post stories that continue the tradition she started of giving out blue ribbons to people who make a difference. Your open expression of respect and thoughtfulness towards your environment deserves one of those blue ribbons! Our place of stewardship on this earth is an honor given. Webster defines “stewardship” as the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care. Truly this earth and its environment are in that classification. I feel one of the greatest expressions of charity (based on the original definition from the late Latin caritat-, caritas Christian love, from Latin, dearness, from carus dear; akin to Old Irish carae friend, Sanskrit kāma love). Webster’s definition of charity, “benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity” goes hand-in-hand with our benevolent thoughtfulness, love and respect for the earth.

  3. seewhykinsman said

    Wow. Thank you so very much; I’m humbled.
    Thank you so much for reading!

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