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‘Include Your Giving In Your Cost Of Living’

Good Morning. Lady Gaga and Bill Gates have done it but David Cameron and Barack Obama have not.

Russell Brand and Oprah Winfrey have been soaked while Stephen Hawking’s kids did it for him.

Someone you know probably did it this week – then posted the video online.

This is the Ice Bucket Challenge. A cold, wet public humiliation – and a fundraising phenomenon for charities tackling Motor Neurone Disease.

One American organisation has received gifts from 800,000 new donors. Total giving is near 100m dollars.

At some point most of us are moved to give money to help others – to fight disease or hunger, to promote human rights or equality.
If you follow a way of faith, you’re not supposed to make a song and dance about it. Which is a challenge when the Internet wants to make a song and dance about everything.
‘When you give alms,’ says Jesus. ‘Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret.’
In other words – keep it under your hat. Otherwise it looks like self-promotion not self-sacrifice – about your personal good, not the common good.

But marrying comic spectacle with good cause, as the ice bucket challenge shows, demands self-promotion.
Filming it, tweeting it – that’s how the online world rolls.
It put me in mind of a life-changing conversation I once had with a friend.
We were talking about how to give and who to – the bewildering number of causes and emergencies.
From her handbag my friend retrieved what turned out to be the most subversive credit card I’d ever seen.
You could only use it to donate to charities – any one of 160,000 registered in Britain.
‘We decided,’ she said. ‘We could afford £10 a week. We set up the bank transfer. The tax we pay on that is reclaimed and added to our account. Then we give it away.’
I called her this week. Her family are still at it.
Quietly, undemonstratively – giving their money away, changing countless lives. Over 25 years, this one family have given away nearly £17,000 to a dozen good causes.
They include their giving in their cost of living.

They budget for generosity like they do for the rent, the shopping, the car, the holiday or the dog.

They help causes that don’t tug at the heart strings as well as popular ones that do – strategic long-term support with the left hand, spontaneous acts of compassion with the right.
And always discreetly.

Dousing yourself in a bucket of freezing water is great – but you wouldn’t want to do it every week.

To change this world for those who face poverty or disease, who need shelter or education, slow and steady giving wins the race.

We can budget to transform history for good. Over the length of our lives.
And when we feel powerless in the face of the grimmest headlines, this is one effective way to know our lives making a difference.