Want to fight corporate greed and rampant consumerism? Do what I did: fund a cow for Christmas.
Last December, I wasn't in a great place. Eighteen months in to my Seattle adventure, I still hadn't formed really close relationships (that damn Seattle freeze!) and had no place to go for the holidays. Work was great; the social media crowd was great; but one of the downsides of the holiday season is that it makes one miss family. Even those without a close family miss their nonexistant close families. Go figure.
So I decided to dump a bucket of perspective on my life. I had a challenging job with a successful startup, a web of brilliant and friendly contacts in the Seattle area, and a good income. I'm not exactly the 1%, but what was I complaining about, exactly?
Then I found Kiva, full of people far less well-off than me. Instead of purchasing a holiday gift for myself, I found a project to support someone who was in dire need for basic necessities. Her name is Chor Chreb, and she lives in Cambodia. She is 31, a garment factory worker, married with one child who is still living at home, and her husband is a farmer. She typically makes about $3 each day, and she was looking for a loan of $400 to purchase a cow to help with farm work.
I had budgeted $100 and saw that the loan was 75% funded, so I created an account and made the $100 loan.
Since then, I have received periodic emails from Kiva as she made regular loan payments. This week, this notice arrived:
Such a decision! I loved this feeling of seeing the small amounts being paid back; they are timely reminders that a small gesture from me helped someone to make a better life for herself and her family. The idea of donating to Kiva to cover operating expenses is tempting, however; organizing the site, taking the photos and sending the emails must be costly. Such a difficult decision! Should I re-donate to another loan or send the balance directly to Kiva?
No matter what that decision, let's look at it this way. If I had purchased some electronic gizmo last year, it would probably already be outdated by now. An expensive meal would be forgotten; new shoes would be last year's news. But this?
Giving feels good
In Les Liaisons Dangereuses, the Vicomte de Valmont fakes an act of charity in order to win over Cécile de Volanges. His observation after the act: "I was astonished at the pleasure to be derived from doing good." He concludes that do-gooders are actually quite selfish, since they derive pleasure and self-satisfaction from their good works.
Count me in for that kind of selfish.
And likewise, the wise muppets of Avenue Q sing:
When you help others/You can't help helping yourself...
Every time you do good deeds/you're also servin' your own needs.
Ah, so true. This is the secret selfishness of giving--it feels really good. I'm not sure about the being closer to god part, but this gift has given me more satisfaction and ongoing joy and purpose than anything else I could have purchased.
Of course I still want the cute shoes. Of course I still want an iPad and the new iPhone. But that rampant consumerism will be with me for a long time; I am American, after all. If you want a break from that for a season, though, a Cambodian cow is the way to go. Go ahead. Hit Kiva and see what it feels like to be the 1% to someone.