By Yatindra Bhatnagar
"Charity begins at home" was the oft-repeated
saying we grew up learning and trying to emulate. In India one of the most common charities I remember was the small collection
box at almost every shop and the owners dutifully would put some coins daily to be collected weekly or monthly.
That charity was for protection/maintenance of unclaimed cows organized by the Go Sewa Sangh (the Cow Protection
Organization). Hindus traditionally regard the cow like a mother. In fact India's traditional agriculture depended entirely
on the cow and its family.
Some "progressive and westernized" Indians have started
eating beef but the overwhelming majority wouldn't even think of doing any harm to the cow. There have been massive agitations
to ban cow slaughter in India and people have lost their lives to save the cow. But the modern, "secular" and pro-Muslim
governments of India have not actively and effectively taken steps to completely ban cow slaughter in the country.
Apart from that cow charity, in India people have been giving generously to various causes since time immemorial.
Charity (Daan) is an essential part of Hindu philosophy (also Muslim). There are many causes and you cannot do enough to meet
their need. The blinds need your contribution, the hungry children want your assistance, and there are a hundred other causes
good enough to help. Sadhana and I try to do our bit in this mission of help.
However, in the
United States charity is a very big business. There are hundreds of organizations raising funds for a wide variety of causes
that's mind-boggling. These days we are overwhelmed by the mail we get every day and 90% of them are for our money.
We don't have that kind of money to give to everyone, or to even 10 percent of them. But even if we had, we are encouraged
to find out who the better charities are, and which ones are just taking care of themselves.
American laws, I understand, you can start a non-profit charity, free of taxes, if you just distribute 10 percent of the funds
you raise for the causes you wish to work for. They raise vast amount of funds; several of them are big businesses. But dozens
of them have earned F ratings by independent agencies.
There are several charities raising tens
of millions of dollars annually for liver, cancer kidneys, lungs and other parts of the human bodies; several are devoted
to the veterans, some paralyzed, some hospitalized, some foreign war veterans and so on. Several of them are also in the category
of F and D. Only a couple of them are A or A+ and they deserve our support.
These charities are
sending address labels and notepads, greeting cards and even calendars and expect your dollars in return. Their letters are
poignant, impressive and persuasive. However, their own administrative expense and the ratio of earnings to actual expenditure
for real service is a cause of concern.
Some days I receive half a dozen letters of solicitation
and that gives me an incentive to research about their ratings. Now I try to decide according to their ratings and I have
started feeling better. Their letters are good, and so is my hard earned, limited source of income. Give whatever you can,
but choose wisely and find out who deserves more - you or they.