"It is every man's obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it."
- Albert Einstein
Here's how my mind works.
I wondered if some people might be using the current needs of hurricane survivors as an excuse to clean out their attics, turning an expensive trip to the landfill into a tax write-off.
I called Mark Johnson at the Richmond County landfill, but he told me, no - business is about the same.
Then I began to call area charities to see if they had been given things they didn't want, or had no use for - you know, malfunctioning microwaves, ugly sport coats, broken toys.
When I called the Augusta Red Cross office, I was told they avoided such dilemmas by simply asking for money - it's easy to carry, it's accepted worldwide and - my wife tells me - it's very, very useful.
That being the case, I began to wonder just how much money people are giving to hurricane relief, and Evan Goldstein and the nice people at The Chronicle of Philanthropy told me it was a lot.
"Americans have given more than $1.2 billion to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina," he responded by e-mail Thursday. "The pace of giving continues to be faster than after the 2001 terrorist attacks.
"Even though Americans have been continuing to give in the weeks after Katrina struck, it is still unclear whether charities will raise as much as they say they need for relief and recovery efforts," he wrote.
"The Red Cross in Washington has received $826.8 million, by far the largest amount among the more than 50 charities now raising money for short- and long-term relief efforts."
More generosity, according to their Sept. 9 issue, includes:
- Wal-Mart had contributed $17 million, and the foundation created by the company's founders, the Walton family, has donated $15 million to groups working on hurricane relief.
- The Lilly Endowment in Indianapolis had donated $10 million each to the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.
- John Grisham, the popular author, and his wife, had donated $5 million to help his home state of Mississippi.
- Boone Pickens and Leona Helmsley each gave $5 million.
The list went on and on and I quit reading, thankful that a country so vulnerable to hurricanes is also a country so generous.
I guess we'll find out just how generous next year when everybody files income tax returns and claims credit for the charitable giving of 2005.
I expect it. You expect it, and the IRS expects it, too.
Mark Green with the Atlanta office of the Internal Revenue Service told me Thursday that legislation is already in the works that will make it easier to acknowledge charitable generosity when April 15 rolls around.
We like to give, and we like to get credit for it.
That's how our minds work.
Contact Bill Kirby at (706) 823-3344 or firstname.lastname@example.org.