Friday, January 20, 2012

Throwing money in the wind...

       I guess it can be fun to make a wish and throw a penny into a famous fountain. Whether that alone will make the wish come true, I doubt it. One expression I tend to hear from many social critics is that you can't solve every problem by throwing money at it. I can agree with most of that. I mean money makes the world go 'round and it takes money to accomplish a lot of things, but there needs to be other things in the mix such as time, energy, thoughtfulness, education, and public awareness. (Unfortunately many things that are considered "awareness campaigns" are merely fundraisers and have little to do with awareness or education.) I mean it does take a lot of money to address all issues, including Autism, but it would be nice to know more about how the money is used. In this dictionary of idioms there is a definition of all this:
       If I want to beautify my yard in the Spring it will usually cost some money. I can put money into tools, advanced fertilizers, high quality seeds and plants... but it still takes energy and some knowledge. I still have to pull weeds and thin seedlings. Online I see a lot of places where one can buy wildflower seeds in bulk for a fair price and this can be a creative and relatively easy way to brighten up a dull spot of to naturalize an area at the edge of a property. It doesn't take much to take some seeds and toss them around, hoping for the best. If the weather cooperates it is likely that something nice will pop up somewhere, but if you really want to make an impact, you still need to clear some weeds, water a few times, make sure the seeds will come into contact with soil and light... You usually can't just take a stroll through the woods and just toss seeds in the air hoping to transform a bleak, rocky area into a botanical garden. We can also buy the most expensive plant food but one still has to pull the weeds.
       When we hear that money is being raised for Autism or some other good cause it may be good to ask for details. Who does the money go to? How is it distributed? I'm not even referring to scams or people stealing money- that's another story, but I'm thinking more in terms of efficiency and other factors. Thoughtfulness is important here. Throw some crumbs in a fish tank any old way and watch how quickly they can go from peaceful to fighting. There are many times when you may have to think about what your doing and maybe even separate the fish to make sure it is distributed properly. When it comes to public services I'm not saying we never need the help of government or large institutions, but it takes more than that and some issues are solved best at a more pastoral level. Sincerity of intentions is also crucial and unless one has power to read and control minds this has to be done from the inside. Superficial interest will lead to superficial results.
       Health care in general is another thing... It does cost money, but if money is just thoughtlessly thrown at the problems then we will have little way of knowing if it will help the people that it was intended to help. I'm no expert on economics and will be first to admit that our problems are complex. I can't give too much on the way of advice but I do know that there will always be people who will use loopholes, bureaucracy, micro-management, and strange regulations benefit their own interests while the people in need get nothing but lip service.
       There are many (sometimes less glamorous) ways we can help a cause from Autism to many others without money, formal organizations, formal expertise. Good will as with all good things comes from God and besides, we can't really organize God or put Him in a box or computer database. We can spread awareness on an individual level and "volunteer" without formal institutions. We can pray or just give moral support. We can also do research on the Internet to learn more about any issue or condition. Many times people worry about the needs of groups of people (which is great) but then forget about individuals right under their nose. Our actions set example which is more convincing than words alone.
       Let's say I myself had access to a large sum of money (I don't but I'll imagine for just a minute.). This money could be public or private (depending if I was a high up politician or an independent billionaire). I would naturally want to make the best of it and help society as many well intentioned people do. I could imagine however how it would be tempting to just sit and sign checks (and I'm sure there will be pressure from voices all over the place.) Maybe I'd feel I'm too busy to research every cause that asks for help or to decide who will make the most efficient use of the money. It may be tempting to just make a wish and sign the checks. I guess if your a private philanthropist it's still better than nothing but if you are dealing with public funds from taxpayers one has a duty to ask questions before they pick up their magic pens.
       I took this photo about 8 years ago of the famous Fontana di Trevi in Rome, Italy Many people toss coins in here traditionally with the hope that they will return to Rome one day. (I'm sure many other wishes were made.) At least here even if their wish never came true it's only a coin and hopefully their own money: