Giving Narratives is an editorial piece written by Manuel Alindogan Jr., and shared with The Ugly Writers under the theme Disenchanted for the month of May
Manuel A. Alindogan, Jr. / Jun A. Alindogan
Giving is a complex term. Its complications arise from the various concepts individuals and societies attach to the term. Monetary packages, institutional aid, business and manpower tradeoffs, social pledges, and personal commitment come to mind. The concept of giving is also intertwined with transactional benefits, mostly tangible. Even if giving is physical, it is still difficult to measure its worth as it cannot simply be reduced to a set of benchmarks that are quantified through inventories. The narratives connected to the worth, time and again, have proven that they are more significant in determining the value of giving although not all “giving” narratives are positive.
For instance, I heard a story from a bank officer who told of the monthly dues automatically deducted from its employees’ payroll to fund a business-related registered charity. Multiply the number of employees this bank has in the entire country and you can figure out how much money the foundation receives from this unfair arrangement and treatment. Perhaps this is the rule rather than the exception in many foundations. In a similar vein, holders of church coffers and even entire congregations expect everyone, and most especially the clergy to give the standard percentage from personal income to the church and yet do not even amount to the mandated minimum wage given to the religious, all in the guise of service and spirit for the kingdom. Worse, what is given as corporate church tithe is withheld when it comes to funding relevant and meaningful programs so the clergy has to shell out from their own pockets and think of ways to raise funds. This is categorically oppressive. The minimum essence of giving is to empower the recipient to be independent, to plow through undiscovered paths, to solve problems, to see the world in a different light, and to engage in a civil action. If giving is merely dogmatic and ceremonial whether in church, corporation, or foundations, it is doomed to fail for it only becomes a compulsion and hence will fall short of funding for any present project or future plan. Donor fatigue is another major issue when the same individuals or organizations are repeatedly asked, to provide financial support for programs that have not been visible through narrative documentation or transparent public financial statements. Even if there are documents to prove fund liquidation to donors, most givers diversify the reach of their cash and in-kind contributions to sustainable, realistic, and practical endeavors and at times, pull out full donations for undisclosed personal reasons. Funding physical buildings become problematic too as the concern is more of the social function of the structure and its lasting impact on the community. I, for one, am a witness to the shifting locations of a school where I used to teach for many years, for lack of funders to support a building project which is unattractive to donors despite consistent campaigns. The issue boils down to what the building will and can do for the community, not just for the benefit of those within its parochial walls.
Giving narratives can also be faked and fall into an everlasting poverty porn paradigm. The same scenarios are seen and heard but different in context, scope, magnitude, and degree but similar in plot and timelines. More than ever, giving has become cyclical and appeals for donations are constant social and traditional media headlines most especially in the aftermath of a disaster, be it natural or man-made. What is mind-boggling are the same concerns all over again: lack of food, shelter, water, and diseases. How come these troubles are not hit head-on in times of fair weather? Wouldn’t it be better if most giving is done during this time? I do not discount the value of one-time gifts in calamities. They serve as emergency solutions. However, to prevent communities from being “eternal” victims, social and environmental mechanisms must be in place years before a calamity strikes again and wipe out villages. The tools must be pro-people within the community itself, and nature-sensitive to holistic topographical aspects.
Related to this is the authenticity of appeals for help based on family and community narratives. Such requests for aid must be based on familial and community corroboration that includes one’s immediate and distant family, community or village leaders, educators, the religious, and social workers and on overt oral and written testimonials as these narratives can be exploited, twisted, manufactured, and edited for tax exemption, ratings, sales, and marketing. This is not to say that recipients of giving are not able to discern manipulation but it takes a critical mind and heart to determine if one’s offer of help is utterly genuine. The same goes for countless victims of tragedies, who even in the midst of ongoing struggles and past difficulties, would still offer help, not necessarily material, but efforts at organizing locals to tap inner and outer resources to survive and flourish.
It is a fact that giving has many mutations and there is no single word to define its varieties but its core is always, and has always been the same: to look beyond the dark and to find the light.
Read the previous entry by Mr. Manuel Alindogan here: