Ever notice how we are pummeled daily with public service messages, advertisements and promotions to "live green", give to what seems a million different non-profit charities and volunteer? The outcome is good, people are receiving help, illnesses are being researched and potential cures are being identified and I hear the Earth is in less danger than before (if it doesn't erradicate us first). The intention, however, has made me ponder that old addage about The Road to Hell and the cobblestones with which it is paved.
I used to wonder how Hell was payment for good intentions, until I came to think it was not the "intention" to do something good, but the intention to reap some reward, often recognition, a pat on the back or bragging rights that laid the bricks and poured the mortar. I'm certainly not on a biblical tangent here, but rather choosing to take a closer look at our motivators. Corporations make huge strides in good works through monetary donations and promoting (often requiring) that their employees contribute to charity drives and participate in various volunteer activities. The IRS allows us to write off the amount we give each year both monetarily and reusable goods. I applaud all of these incentives that seem to get many people to stop and re-examine what they do with their "spare change" and belongings that have no further purpose for them. Regardless of the motivator, there is a definite means to an end.
So allow me to take this a step further.
There are many good old traditions that focus on the act and insist on anonymity so that they are True acts of charity. Labelling the act with "compliments of" will invariably imply a debt owed, and while gratitude is a wonderful thing, in my fairly jaded opinion, it belongs with gift giving and good manners, where the knowledge that an act of charity has made the intended difference should be reward enough. Many think that is a rare concept, but each year we are reminded during the holiday season when the all-too-familiar Salvation Army bell ringers resume their posts, and in spite of their diligent smiles and "Thank you" to each person who drops a few coins or folded bills in their bucket, an anonymous donor (or donors) manage to sneak a gold Krugerrand into the pot. To my knowledge, this act has remained anonymous.
I won't beat the proverbial dead horse on this topic as it seems fairly straight-forward and simple: Do the right thing because it is the Right Thing to do. Do something for another because you Can. And the next time you fill out that form to give to your favourite cause and you see that field that allows you to give anonymously, thing about how easily (or with how much difficulty) you are able to check it and send on your good act with only yourself as witness.