Sunday, January 25, 2009

Choose a Social Justice Cause, Just One, and Devote Yourself to It

Today's New York Times has an interesting opinion piece on Bill Gates' humanitarian initiatives. Go here to read the whole thing.

I especially liked the end of Nicholas Kristof's article:

"I asked Mr. Gates what advice he had for ordinary readers who might want to engage in micro-philanthropy.

“The key thing is to pick a cause, whether its crops or diseases or great high schools,” he said. “Pick one and get some more in-depth knowledge.” If possible, travel to see the problems firsthand, then pick an organization to support with donations or volunteer time.

So try it. The only difference between you and Mr. Gates is scale."

It's a great suggestion. Instead of donating to every cause that comes your way--and you'll be getting all sorts of solicitations once people know you'll donate--decide on just one or two areas and commit.

Years ago, I decided that hunger issues would be my primary focus, and so I donate money through my church, and I donate to groups, like Bread for the World, which work for change on a systemic level. I also give time by working in food pantries and going to sites to participate in feeding programs.

Of course, I donate to other worthy causes, but hunger alleviation is my primary focus, and it has been, since I was a young child.

There are plenty of social justice issues from which to choose. The hard part might be choosing one--so think about it this way. You're being awarded the Nobel Prize for the work you've done; what does the press release say.

If you look at recent Peace Prize winners, you'll notice that they, too, tend to have focused on one issue and devoted all their time, talents, and money to that area of social justice. We should let ourselves take a lesson from these social justice giants among us.

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