Big donations often get lots of media coverage. But is the charity as “sterling” as it might seem?
By Jim Kempton
A little more than 2,000 years ago, some of the richest folks in Jerusalem publically displayed their big donations as Jesus and his disciples watched from the shadows. Then a poor woman came in and dropped two mites—a small amount compared to the fat cats.
Jesus proclaimed a frequently forgotten truth: “This poor widow has put in more than all those others; they put in out of abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had.”
Today, we are too often still impressed by the big givers. And we still forget the lesson of proportion from the parable of the Widow’s Two Mites, Mark 12:43.
Donald Sterling is a perfect example. He certainly appears like a big philanthropist. To make sure no one misses it, he runs full page advertisements in the Los Angeles Times touting his generosity. But, what does his giving really mean?
According to public records, his charitable foundation gave about $11 million dollars last year. That’s a lot of money. Sterling’s net worth is $1.9 billion. So, last year, Sterling gave about 0.005 percent of his net worth to charity.
To put that in perspective, the average 55-year-old American has around $190,000 in net worth.
The same percentage of giving would be about $1,000.
If an average family drops $20 bucks in the church coffer every week, they are as generous in their relative contribution to charity as Sterling is. If an average family gives $1,000 dollars throughout the year to charities like the Red Cross, Doheny State Beach Interpretive Association or the Ocean Institute, they proportionally put in the same amount as those like Sterling, who—I’m not exaggerating—holds 10,000 times as much financial wealth as the average American.
Even those with far less wealth—who donate a hundred hours of their time coaching an AYSO soccer team, leading a Girl Scout troop, serving at a soup kitchen or helping at beach clean ups—gave as much proportionally as a billionaire contributing $10 million.
There are many relatively wealthy citizens here in our town who give far more than the miniscule percentage that Sterling does. More importantly, they put their muscle where their money is. All over Dana Point we see these good shepherds donating their time and energy and opening their hearts as well as their wallet.
They are at the Vietnam veterans memorial tribute, the Historical Society, the Dana Point Symphony, Rotary Club, Festival of the Whales and the churches of our vibrant town. They do it without the slightest need to be accorded accolades—although thankfully some of them do get appreciated publically.
May we all appreciate them as if they were the richest people in the world—because, in fact, they are.
Jim Kempton is a local resident who falls far short of giving anywhere near his share of the abundant bounty he has been bestowed. But his wife and children try to make up for him.
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