Right now, a friend is struggling with the tragic loss of a child. One of her wishes for the funeral was that it be filled with flowers. So, of course, we ordered some flowers. After doing so, I had the following text exchange with Mr. Steward:
Me: I ordered some flowers for [friend]. They came to $50ish. What part of the budget should I take that from? I could do gift, or my personal spending if need be?
Mr. Steward: Um, the basic human decency fund? I don’t know, it needed to be done. Gift is fine, I guess?
I didn’t think any more about it, until a friend pointed out later, “Mr. Steward is really great. You know, not everyone would have that reaction.” She’s right. I’ve written before about how giving is important to us, and why we make it a priority to tithe to our church and earmark money for other giving. Ours is largely motivated by our faith and at this point is almost a matter of course (for better or worse).
Giving is not that simple for many, though. You may not have a faith that demands that you give. Moreover, if you don’t have extra cash in the first place, it’s hard to part with money even if you want to. And, for some (Mr. Steward is one of these), the “want to” is a learned skill. His first thought would not always have been to simply do the generous thing; generosity is something he has learned as time goes on. My own frugality can likewise cause me to have ungenerous thoughts from time to time.
It strikes me, though, that a “basic human decency fund” is a really great way to express why it’s important for anyone who can to earmark some cash for giving. Events are inevitably going to happen in life that move you to act in ways that involve money. Friends experience a major tragedy and need their physical needs met. Natural disasters occur half a world away. Long-distance relatives need us there, stat.
Having a bit of money set aside each month to respond to such events when they arise is a fundamentally decent thing to do. It is decent not just for the receiver of the gift, although that is the obvious point. It also helps the person doing the giving to feel their own decency, to feel as if they can truly respond to the events in the world around them without the stress and fear of what will happen to one’s own self clouding their generosity.
If you don’t budget for giving yet (or if you don’t budget at all!), consider finding a way to set aside a little cash for a “basic human decency” fund. I suspect you’ll be so pleased that you did.