I was talking with my friend Sarah one evening about how difficult it was to say no to worthwhile activities and she gave me a very good piece of advice.
“Time is like money,” she said.
Now we’ve all heard “Time is money” – that we need to make sure that we’re using our time to make money, or that the use of our time is worth money, but that’s not what she was saying. Instead, she was saying that just like we need to budget our money, we also need to budget our time.
Let’s start with money.
The other day I met with a friend for coffee in the city. I wasn’t exactly running late but I was on a tight schedule and I was eager to spend as much time with my friend as possible.
As I turned the corner to the door of the coffee shop I was accosted by a very friendly man with a large smile and a grey beanie. (It was winter in Tasmania, it was cold).
“Hi, nice to meet you!” he said with great enthusiasm and shook my hand and gave me his name and asked for mine.
My heart sank. I knew what was coming.
I don’t like to ignore people and just walk on, especially when they give me a warm and genuine smile. It is just rude to completely blank them and I find it impossible. But sometimes I wish I could.
He was a ‘charity mugger’ – you know, one of those people from a non-profit organisation who is out on the street and wants, not a donation, but a commitment of “just $40 a month, less than a coffee a day.”
What do you do in that situation? The needs in this world are huge, and if you are reading this you are probably one of the privileged few.
I love my cup of coffee a day. I would find it hard to give that up for any charity. I need to provide for my own family, pay my own bills, save for my future, and I also want to put aside some money to follow my dreams.
In one way I would like to give every cent that I have to help a child climb out of poverty, and to help a girl escape child marriage (this is what the guy in the beanie was about), and to help a woman in a developing nation start her own business, and to boost medical research. The list goes on and on. The number of charities in Australia is doubling every decade. Pro bono Australia counted 56,894 charities in Australia in 2016. We can’t give to them all.
What are we to do?
One of my major breakthroughs for this issue was to realise that it is not my responsibility to solve every problem in the world.
I can’t get my head around how many people there are in the world. There are so many people. My brain can handle the thought of ten, one hundred, one thousand people. I have at least a thousand people that I know personally. I think I can almost hold that number of faces, personalities, in my head. After that it gets fuzzy. When I’m driving home of an evening I look at all the cars and realise that each person in each car is a personality with their own dreams and trials and families, hurts and loves – I tell you it spins me out a little.
If I gave every cent of my own money to charity it wouldn’t help that much. But if everyone in the developed world gave a little of their money to these charities, then we could do a lot to make the world a better place.The charity-muggers are doing an important job if they get someone who is not giving to start giving. It’s a numbers game.
Let me tell you what I decided to do, not to blow my own horn but to maybe help you to make your own decisions. (And remember, we’ll be applying this to time later.)
I decided how much of my income I was going to give away. I’ve decided that 10% of my gross income is a good way to go. I’ve heard of someone who lives off 10% and gives away 90% and, to be honest, I’d like to get there one day. But 10% is a good place to start. Sometimes I give a little more out of my savings, especially when I feel like money is getting a hold on me. Giving is an excellent way to combat both greed and fear that God won’t provide. But that’s another story.
Once I had decided how much I was going to give I looked at my personal values and found a number of organisations that suited my values. I’m going to give you a general idea so that you can hopefully use it to make your own list. I give to local and to international mission, I sponsor some children in the developing world, I give to a non-profit that supports victims of child abuse and one that supports research into cancer, and I support my local church. That’s it.
I made the decision thoughtfully and prayerfully. I took my time over it. And I revisit it occasionally when I have time and brain-space. But for most of the time the decision is made.
So what did I do when the friendly man in the beanie attacked me with his very worthy cause? I said no.
At first, (and this turned out to be not a good idea) I tried to tell him that I gave already to five charities (yes, I forgot some) and that I had made my decision, but he was having none of it.
“That’s great! You’re just the kind of person I want to talk to! If you give to five, why not six?” he said.
Then I realised that I didn’t need to justify to him, or to anyone, why I was not giving to his particular charity, worthy though it might be. His charity was an SEP (someone else’s problem). I have decided where I am going to give and that’s the end of the story.
I’m sure he gets knocked back all the time and that he can deal with it. The person I have to live with is me. When I was trying to make each decision about giving on the spur of the moment I was pushed around by my own emotions, my guilt, my compassion. It was not pretty.
I’m very sure that God doesn’t want us living under a cloud of condemnation all the time. In fact, he says so: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
I don’t need to feel guilty because I can’t solve the world’s problems. Solving the world’s problems is not my job.
Giving is excellent. Giving is my job. It is good for me, it is good for each of us, and it is good for the world. Let’s make a decision about how much we will give, and where we will give. And then give. But let’s not get hung up on feeling guilty that we can’t be the saviour of the world.
“Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38
Next post I’ll tell you how I transferred this idea to my time management issues, how it helped me say no to invitations to worthy causes. In the meantime, do you have any ‘charity mugger’ stories? Have you been a mugger yourself? How do you feel about saving the world?
This post is part of a series I am writing about what I have learned about saying no. I’d love to have you join me on this journey. If you want to make sure you never miss a post, you can sign up on WordPress and the post will be sent to your email address every week without fail.
You’ll notice some special art in this series. If you want to see more of it you can find the artist on instagram @deteor42
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