COVID lockdowns closed businesses, forced kids out of their classrooms, and became another wedge issue in an already politicized world. They did something else. They squashed opportunities to give, and charity suffered.
This is not a doom-and-gloom story. I promise.
But let’s lay the foundation.
When I began writing this post several weeks ago, I wanted to highlight a handful of charities that made a difference, but couldn’t find an angle that might appeal to a broad range of people. So, I did what many do. I clicked my browser and typed the words, “America and charitable giving.”
A report by a United Kingdom-based charity, the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), popped up. I started reading and took heart in its findings. America, according to CAF’s World Giving Index, ranked fourth as the world’s most charitable country.
Great. Here’s an angle to introduce the charities I admire.
America’s Significant Decline
Just days before I planned to publish this post, my inner voice started nagging me to research further. Thank God, I listened. Low and behold, CAF released its 2021 report based on data collected during the height of the lockdowns in 2020. Its findings would have made a liar of me.
America isn’t number four. It’s not even in the top 10—a position the U.S. has occupied for the 10 years since CAF started asking people worldwide whether they had done any of the following in the past month:
- Helped a stranger, or someone they didn’t know who needed help?
- Donated to a charity?
- Volunteered their time to an organization?
Our exceedingly blessed nation had fallen to 19 in the rankings. Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, and Myanmar now occupy the top four positions. We weren’t alone. The United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, and the Netherlands—also former top performers—joined us on the downward slide.
What happened? How could the richest countries on the planet perform so badly in a generosity survey?
People’s “willingness to give was not dramatically diminished, it was opportunity that went missing….,” the report said. “While those lockdowns undoubtedly saved lives, they also shut off myriad everyday opportunities to give.”
The findings make sense. People can’t give, volunteer, or help a stranger if they remain locked behind closed doors. Another unintended, never considered consequence, along with increased suicides, drug overdoses, and domestic violence.
What will the future hold? Only time will tell, but CAF says it will be watching.
The Guide to Follow
If these findings disturb you, take heart. Charity did and continues to happen. In July 2020, for example, Greta Irvin started Thankful Tuesday. Her charity provides homemade bread, bottled water, toiletries, and other basics to the 183S Homeless Camp in Austin, Texas.
“People don’t wake up saying they want to be homeless,” said Greta, a former University of Maryland tennis player. She didn’t wake up 30-plus years ago wanting to be debilitated by rheumatoid arthritis, either. But she did.
“God got me through everything and now I am able to give back to the community,” she said.
She hasn’t stopped, either. Early this year, she launched One Village to Another, a charity that helps disadvantaged Austin-area schools find much-needed resources. Her attitude? “I get more from them than what I give.”
600 Volunteers, Say What?
A thousand miles away, hundreds of people also did their part helping the least of these. Also in July 2020, 400 volunteers showed up to give away new shoes, backpacks, and other necessities to disadvantaged school kids in East Tennessee.
This year, the annual Helping Hands ministry drew 600 volunteers. Yes, you read that number correctly. Six hundred. Their numbers far exceeded the record set in 2020 as they gave away:
- 2,213 pairs of shoes
- 11,920 pairs of socks
- 6,225 pairs of underwear
- 1,518 backpacks filled with school supplies
- 700 food boxes (including fresh ground beef)
- 401 haircuts
Ministries like this one don’t come cheap. According to organizers of this church-sponsored charity, congregants raised more than $100,000 for the shoes alone.
A Salute to Nonprofits Everywhere
These are examples. Thousands of charities continue their work despite events over which they have no control. Thousands of people still exercise random acts of kindness. I salute them.