Saturday, June 09, 2007

Saturday in the 9th Week of Ordinary Time (I)
Combatting Donor Fatigue

Readings: Tobit 12:1, 5-15, 20; Tobit 13:2, 6efgh, 7, 8; Mark 12:38-44

I only recently learnt a new term: “donor fatigue”. It describes a condition that afflicts people when they are approached too frequently to make contributions to charity. This condition hampers the efforts of fundraisers because people feel “tired” of being asked to donate. And, consciously or not, they find ways to resist such invitations. What can fundraisers do? Of course, wherever possible, they may find better ways in which to spread out their campaigns, to give people enough time to recover. In addition, we may wonder whether, in addition to raising funds, more can be done to help people find the right motivations for giving.

Our readings today may be helpful in this regard by presenting us with two images. The first is one of shockingly open-hearted and open-handed generosity. The poor widow from the little she had put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on. Even as we listen to Jesus praise her, might we not wonder how she came to be so generous? Was it purely out of a sense of obligation? Was it only because she felt bad because someone in authority, or perhaps a charitable organization, kept hounding her and continually reminding her that it was her duty to give? We may well wonder…

The second image is to be found in the first reading. The feast thrown by Tobit for the Jews of Nineveh is over and Tobit begins to think of rewarding Azarias (Raphael) for all that he has done. And at first glance, it would seem that the angel suddenly turns into a fundraiser. Almsgiving saves from death and purges every kind of sin…, he says. But then he goes on to show us the true foundation upon which almsgiving, and indeed any kind of generosity, is based. He reveals to Tobit and Tobias who he really is and what he has been doing. He helps father and son to appreciate even more deeply how much they have been blessed by God right from the time when their family was in distress, the times of sorrow and privation, up to this present time of joy and plenty. The angel lays the groundwork for generosity by helping to cultivate a disposition of gratitude. Now bless the Lord on earth and give thanks to God.

These are the two images presented to us in our readings today, one of generosity and the other of gratitude. In our ongoing efforts to avoid “donor fatigue” we may well wonder whether there isn’t something we can all learn from a reflection upon the close connection between them. What practical differences might such a reflection make to our approaches toward almsgiving and fundraising?

1 comment:

  1. Singaporeans have been known to be generous to worthwhile causes. The 2004 tsunami is a good case in point. But uncover another NKF type debacle and generosity shrivels and people balk. This is natural, not becos people have second thoughts, but because nobody wants to be taken for a ride. Me included.

    Fr Chris raised an enigmatic question: what motivated the poor widow to give all she had? Whatever it was, Jesus must have seen through that in His praise for her. Some give to be in the lime-light; some to make themselves "feel good"; others out of condescending pity; still others becos it is a "natural" thing to do. Sometimes i give to make the fundraiser disappear from my sight in double quick time. Whatever the motivation, God sees through our intention.

    The widow in the Gospel gave all she had to live on. That would seem extreme to many of us, but on closer scrutiny, it is happening this very day, perhaps even under our very noses. Take for example, the care-giver to someone old and feeble or terminally ill; the parent painstaking nurturing a wayward child with love and affection, praying for that glimmer of change; or a spouse working doubly hard to save a marriage. They are giving all they have.

    Whether we are conscious of it or not, our generosity springs from the One Who is and Who will always be generous.