Let me just say for the record: I’m not dumping ice water on my head. So don’t ask. And I may or may not give money to ALS but it won’t be because someone publicly shamed me into doing it.
I do have charities I give to, but I do so because they or their issue has touched me personally. And that should be just fine.
I had a reason to wonder the other night why people give.
My husband and I were walking home when a man on the street asked for money. We kept walking. But then he said, “Please. I’m so hungry.”
Well, I’m Italian, so that was exactly the right button to push for me. Can’t have someone hungry when I’m around!
So my husband and I ducked into a restaurant and ordered a large slice of pizza and a bottle of water. And we brought it to the man. We probably spent more than we would have given him if we’d simply reached into our wallet.
Was he grateful? He was not. In fact, he was a bit resentful that my bundle of food interfered with the plea he was making to the next group of people for money because he was so hungry.
So why do we give, if that’s the thanks we get?
I heard a piece on National Public Radio recently that talked about why we give. The interview with the author of, “The Science of Giving,” reveals that we are much more likely to give to a single suffering person than a group. Which probably explains why that single, “I’m hungry” affected me more than endless appeals to end hunger in Africa.
But here’s an interesting tidbit. If you ask people to suffer first, they are likely to give more. In an experiment, some people could just give money to a charity while others had to plunge their hands in cold water before they were allowed to donate. The cold-water people gave more.
So maybe the ice bucket people have something there. Certainly, they report a huge uptick in donations since the challenge campaign began.
But me? Not doing it. I still will be unable to walk past someone who tells me they’re hungry, but I’m just not throwing ice water over my head.