Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

To Err toward Giving Is Divine for Vets

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

To Err toward Giving Is Divine for Vets

Article excerpt

It is embarrassing to explain how there came to be a sack of unopened mail in my kitchen, but in honor of America's veterans, I feel I must - if only to urge you, "Don't be like me."

It's just a small sack - a white paper square with handles - but it contains more than 30 thick envelopes, an odd sock and some uncomfortable truths.

One sad truth smothered under all that mostly unopened mail is this: A few years ago, I stopped giving to charity. When I lost regular employment and switched to the freelancer's smaller paycheck, I basically closed my checkbook.

Another sad truth is that the need is greater than ever - especially for veterans struggling with the devastation of war.

You clever readers may already have sensed that my confession is setting up a narrative wherein I emerge wonderfully improved from my years of stinginess, ready to rescue America's vets. In short, you may be anticipating a "humble-brag."

Well, that's a risk I've decided to take, because the situation is more complicated and more frustrating than that. And whatever you may think of it, I find it humiliating.

For the record, my parents raised me right. Baptists preach tithing, and my dad practiced what he preached.

Ten percent of his income - gross, not net - went into the plate every week. I remember the small white envelope always propped between the perfume bottles on the dresser's mirrored tray, filled and ready for Sunday.

But my parents didn't stop at mere duty. An "offering" is a gift over and above the required tithe. They did that, too - with the added goal of a joyful spirit, because "God loveth a cheerful giver."

So you can see how the begrudging attitude of this semi-employed adult does not square with the lessons of childhood. It's just one of myriad ways I have failed to live up to their example.

An upside to my miserliness is the resulting dearth of junk mail. Not that letters from charities are "junk," really, but most outfits are not going to waste their direct-mail budgets on people like me who don't respond.

Somehow, though, someone out there got my name. …

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