Buckets & Bigotry, Children & Charity January 4, 2012

Buckets & Bigotry, Children & Charity

For many, a new year often brings forth resolutions. Yes, I’ll admit, we did write some down in my family. Mostly because it’s fun to reminisce about the past year and brag be proud of how much we have accomplished… but also because we all have a “bucket list” and a new year seems as appropriate a time as any to put a few of those items in motion.

Getting involved in a secular charity is one of my resolutions… or rather, goal, for this year (as if I don’t have enough on my plate). I came to this decision during the Christmas season after explaining to my children why we aren’t dropping money in the bell ringers’ buckets of the Salvation Army.

It’s not because most of them ring the bell as if they just watched their dog get run over by a car, then had to scrape it off the road and throw it in a piranha-infested tank and watch it get shredded. It’s also not because the sound of that incessant bell ringing makes me wish I’d rather be back in basic training while the TI yells at me in a crowded chowhall.

I had to explain to my kiddos that I choose not to donate to the Salvation Army because they are class-A bigots.

So what? Why not just tell the kids that the Salvation Army hates gay people and call it a day? Well, it’s not always that easy.

Kids like to ask why. For my son, who doesn’t believe in supernatural deities, it’s a touch easier. My daughter, on the other hand, believes in a personal god, and her youth and naïveté won’t let her consider that people of faith could also be purveyors of intolerance and undue judgment.

My son takes the approach that all people should have equal rights. My daughter sometimes has a more challenging time thinking in terms of all people being equal. Although, occasionally it’s fun because I get to ask her, “Why?” or “Is it fair if people tell you that you can’t have/do something because their god said so?” Once, when I walked past a Salvation Army bell-ringer, my daughter tried to make me feel guilty for not giving them money. “They help kids, Mom. And if you don’t help then you are saying you don’t care about those kids,” quoth the 10-year-old stinker. “I’m not supporting an organization that promotes hate, ” I responded… although I was thinking, “Just get into the store and don’t make eye contact.”

Our family “bucket list” may not be red or manned by a bell-ringer, but it is filled with plans, goals, and hope.

As part of that list, during the first few months of the new year, I look forward to researching, with my kids, secular and atheist charities. We’ll choose one we can all agree works in the best interest of humanity. Since my kids are of differing opinions, it will make it that much more interesting to find common ground based on how we all define humanism. It’s challenging, but worth it. In the end it’s a lesson for the kids all of us in how to discuss (without name-calling) different opinion without (immediately) telling other people they are crazy. It’s a time to debate, a chance to be skeptical, and an opportunity to think for them ourselves.

Maybe next year we can stick a slip of paper with secular charity ideas into the bigotry red bucket.

I encourage everyone to take a look at some charities. Getting involved may just make your heart grow 3 times bigger this year (and not in a serious-medical condition kind of way).

Here are a few specific suggestions along with other resources to help you out:

Foundation Beyond Belief


Kiva Lending Team

A list of Secular Charities on Freethoughtpedia

A list of Atheist Charities on Just The Messenger

A list of Atheist Charities on Squidoo

Why it’s important to volunteer when you’re a non-theist

A Quick Guide To Being An Atheist Volunteer on Examiner.com

… and many more. Just Google it.

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  • Very timely.  I made a pledge to donate $10 a week to a variety of causes.  I’m blogging about it at http://10dollardifference.blogspot.com.  (I’m also encouraging blood donation and local volunteering.)

  • Anonymous

    OK, I can’t resist being nosy, so feel free to tell me to shove it if you want. I just wonder how you ended up an atheist mom with one atheist son and one theist daughter? You say that your daughter has a hard time thinking in terms of all people being equal, which points to not just a personal god, but one of those very involve micromanaging gods with Specific Opinions about Those People. I wonder how two children could be brought up in the same household and come away with such radically different beliefs.

    As for charities, my choice is generally MSF. When it’s not them, I like to give to very specific, highly-rated smaller charities rather than the behemoth super-charities where the results of your contribution are more diffuse and results less clear.

  • Anonymous

    I quit giving to the Salvation Army years ago because of that fucking bell. I have a problem with unnecessary noise. 

  • Thanks for the post and resources!

    I support my local SPCA.  (I’m fairly certain they’re not trying to bring the animals to Jesus, although sometimes I can just TELL my cat is judging me.)  It’s often financially impossible for me to give a meaningful amount of $$, but most animal shelters have online wish-lists of things like paper towels, hand sanitizer, specific brands of food, and toys.  Spending $10-$20 on needed items and then delivering them yourself can be a big help to the shelter volunteers who are stretched thin.

  • Anonymous

    And there’s always Cincinnati’s Drop Inn Center, which is the largest–completely secular–homeless shelter in the tri-state area. http://www.dropinn.org

  • Tom

    Welcome Shannon 🙂

    I have a request:  could you remove the link at the end of your article to Atheist Volunteers?  I came up with the idea while working with Brian S. of Rational Response Squad notoriety…  I really wanted to create some positive action amidst all their usual bickering about religious folk.  I quickly realized it was a mistake when Brian began using the “brand” of Atheist Volunteers to earn him some cash.  Just check out the Christmas tree made from internet links to products you can buy from Amazon that will put money in the bank for him with no guarantee it goes anywhere it should…


  • bcmama2012

    Donorschoose.org could be a good choice if you’re looking to help kids, you can see what project your money is going to, and choose by location, need, or several other categories. (for example, I funded paper and ink for a local special needs preschool classroom as my winter project)

  • Trace

    We like to donate old items to the local Salvation Army, plus they have a sign in their store that  claims their mission is to meet human needs without discrimination (or something). Rich, eh?

    My son donated some of his change to that hateful organization this Christmas AND got his “newest” hamster ball from them too.

    Great post Shannon!

  • Hemant

    I took care of that on Shannon’s behalf. Thanks!

  • Charles Black

    One of my friends who is 7th Day Adventists is either working for the Salvation army or is going to be. Is there a painless way to convince her not to work for an anti-LGBT charity?

  • Charles Black


  • Anonymous

    Painless? I doubt it, but if you figure out a method, perhaps you could also convince her not to be a Seventh-Day Adventist.

  • Jay

    Things are not always clear-cut.

    Some years ago my ex-wife, a committed atheist went to do some extended volunteer work at a nearby town that had horrendous flooding. She first went to the Red Cross, but found them unacceptable because they were identity checking people who came for help (there were a lot of undocumented folks in that town).  She wound up working with SA, who asked no questions about one’s ‘legality’ or anything else. If you showed up, you were fed.

  • Mommiest

    Let’s not forget public schools: they need volunteers and donations of school supplies. Several retailers and grocery stores allow you to link your customer loyalty card to a local school, which gives them a small percentage of your purchases. The elementary school nearest my house has a coat drive for kids every winter.

    If you love science, technology, and math, take a look at FIRST Robotics. You can donate to the league (and they will use the money to help an underfunded team) or volunteer at a meet, or coach a team.

  • Charles Black

    Thanks for the advice. I’ll speak to her about in university perhaps about this.

  • Anonymous

    Just be aware that Foundation Beyond Belief is not a purely secular charity. Among the groups they support quarterly is a selected religious charity too. Nothing saying you shouldn’t pick them, but it’s something to keep in mind.

    I convinced my mother to donate to the local food bank instead of the Sally Ann this Christmas and that made me happy.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve recenty become a fan and supporter of Responsible Charity (http://www.facebook.com/responsiblecharity).  From their facebook page – “We are secular charity dedicated to educating
    children in the slums of Kolkata and empowering women and men to
    overcome poverty.”  The founder “experienced firsthand the abuse and horrible conditions which men and woman were subjected to under” Mother Theresa’s Sisters of Masochism and decided to make a difference.

  • Jess

    We always select a few names from area “Angel Trees”. That way I know the money I spend goes to the person, and doesn’t get chipped and chiseled for organizational fees along the way.

  • Ted Thompson

    This. Kids shouldn’t go without. I know it’s not much but I picked out 6 tags from the tree this year, and if my wife finds out how much I spent, I’m probably screwed. But one little boy just wanted a wagon and it brought tears to my eyes.

  • David B.

    Certainly there’s no obligation on anyone to support, through donations, an organisation whose actions you do not approve of. But I do mean anyone.

    So if a Christian group decides to not give to a charity doing many worthy things, because to do so might also support something to which they are opposed such as abortion, that is surely equally their right?

  • Anonymous

    i bought a goat this year. for a poor family somewhere. via Heifer International. very direct and logical. heh, jeebus even says so, “give a man a fish,” etc. 

  • Eleanor O’Neill

    FIRST FTW – Our future is in the kids who join FIRST Robotics teams. 

  • Anonymous

    Where I used to live, the SA recruited most of its bell ringers from among the homeless by requiring them to do regular shifts in exchange for shelter and food. That might explain the mournful looks.

  • The Other Weirdo

    “They help kids, Mom. And if you don’t help then you are saying you
    don’t care about those kids,” quoth the 10-year-old stinker.

    At some point, I think, you’ll have to explain to her that one can’t support everyone and that not supporting a particular charity, for any reason, does not automatically mean that you don’t care about the people they supposedly help.

  • Mairianna

    Even though I succumbed to participation in the Christmas Bacchanalia of gift-giving, I bought all my gifts from TheAnimalRescueSite.com, a part of  GreaterGood.org.  Each purchase bought bowls of food for rescued animals in shelters, so it was like I gave twice the gifts!  

  • Juliecorkzim

    Check out “microfinance” organizations like kiva.org or finca. You loan $25 (or more, but that’s the bottom line), choosing (through the site)someone who has a plan to better their lives/family’s lives and their community, say, a Columbian woman who wants to buy a goat and sell goat milk, or someone who wants a larger sum of money to enlarge their sawmill in Lithuania. When it is repaid you loan again. Thousands of people join together, there is good administration, and the organization works with lending partners in whatever country. 

     There are also teams, which is in name only, you can add your lending total to. One of the largest is Athiests and Agnostics. There are of course the Sweet Valley Lutherans, etc – you can choose one to join, or not join any at all. take a look at Kiva.org  – it is the most fun philanthropy you can take part in for $25 that you turn over and over. My total REAL dollars  investment now might be $75, but it has been loaned and repaid 21 times so it is multiplied… I’m part of team Haba Na Haba, ten women in a cyber book club, and our team total is multiplied so many times that it reads like we’ve loaned $3,500+ – and most have just $25 invested.

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