Why I give a buckOne lousy buck. How can one lousy buck make me feel so guilty?

I was checking out at the supermarket the other day and the clerk asked, “Would you like do donate a dollar to muscular dystrophy?”

And without hesitation, but a whirlwind of guilt washing through my brain, I said, “No, not this time.”

Not this time? When, then? When will a lousy buck rattling around my pocket be the time when it needs to find a charitable home? Will it let me know?

I’m not usually this stingy with good causes. I’ve given to many, if the mood strikes. Usually a buck at a time. And I know that it’s not just my buck, but the buck after it, the thousands, the millions of them that add up and make my lousy buck part of a much greater whole.

A couple of years ago, I took my dad on an Honor Flight New England trip, a wonderful nonprofit that flies World War II veterans to Washington, at not cost to them, to see the monuments, to pay them a long-deserved honor. It was one of the grandest days of my life to see hundreds of people lined up to applaud and thank them. Many never were when they came back from war. They just went about rebuilding their lives.

Most were in wheelchairs, hobbled by age, but with the biggest smiles on their old faces than had probably been there in a long, long time. I swear my dad’s was the biggest, as he tearfully echoed the words of all those men, whose ranks are dwindling by 1,000 a day: “No one ever thanked me before.”

I struck up a friendship with the group’s founder, Joe Byron, who told me how they needed money to keep the program going. I’m a writer, and had just done a profile on a guy who runs a very successful store chain, and told Joe I’d see about getting donations, probably snacks and juices to hand out on the trips.

Long story short, the company, which has a weekly donation program at its stores for various charities, included Honor Flight New England. The upshot: It raised a few hundred thousands of dollars for this very special cause. And while Joe gives me credit, it wasn’t me, not by a long shot.

It was people who gave. One lousy buck at a time.

A dollar doesn’t get much these days, but it can erase a whole lot of guilt, which of course shouldn’t be what drives us to give. It should come from our hearts, with no more motivation than the purity of purpose with which it is offered.

My dad died last year. Next time I’m asked, I’m giving two dollars. One lousy buck from each of us.

(For information on Honor Flight New England, visit www.honorflightnewengland.org)


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