The Life You Can Save
Winter has traditionally been my most melancholy season. The current pessimistic social-political climate that seems to hang thick in the air has done little to help; however, as winter officially comes to a close I can confidently state that these past several months haven't been too bad.
The unseasonably warm D.C. winter might be owed some credit, but I'd like to think that it has something to do with a few strategies that I've acquired over the years. In addition to my trusted sunshine lamp, I have made a concerted effort to be more mindful and to reflect on a daily moment of gratitude, a moment where I take a brief pause to think very specifically about something that I am grateful for.
This tax season has brought a whole new wave of gracious thoughts. By looking through our financial history, I've realized just how easy it is to adjust to one's current situation. My "poor" college and graduate student days aren't that far behind us, but it's crazy how quickly the baseline shifts. Filling up my gas tank used to be a significant stressor, but now I couldn't even tell you how much a gallon of gas costs. We are by no means existing in the upper-level income bracket, but life is definitely different than what it once was.
My moments of grateful reflection have made me realize how much the hedonic treadmill is very much at play in my life. If you are unfamiliar, this phrase relates to our tendency to return to a stable state of happiness or to have our expectations and desires rise with our income. This tends to result in minimal overall increases in our long-term "happiness" (beyond a specific dollar amount). Even lottery winners aren't immune to this.
In my ongoing search to live a more mindful existence, I've realized that I probably shouldn't leave my wallet out of the equation. My husband and I work way too hard to mindlessly put our money towards things that lack genuine substance. Buying things on a whim that I don't actually need and that will knowingly lead to a very short-lived spike in happiness, just hasn't felt that appealing lately. After all of our savings accounts were covered, we wanted to put a bit more money towards something that meant more. Peter Singer came to me at just the right time.
I stumbled upon a podcast interview with Peter Singer, a professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. He is the author of many books including Animal Liberation, The Most Good You Can Do, and his most recent, Ethics in the Real World (linked below). He is also the co-founder of The Life You Can Save. A phenomenal nonprofit organization whose mission is to:
I really like this concept. In a world that feels so "us against them" right now, it felt really nice to push aside the borders for a moment, and just ask, "Who on this earth really needs the most help, and how can my minor contribution be best utilized?"
That is exactly what they strive to answer. The organization uses the concept of effective altruism or the use of high-quality evidence to support organizations that make the greatest impact with the money they receive. I took some time to read through the many causes they support, and selected two organizations that spoke to me the most:
Education is a passion of mine. My heart sank as I read through the missions of these international organizations. Several dealt with a common struggle that most high schools across our nation are familiar with: absenteeism. I was curious to learn more about the strategies which led to success rates of up to and beyond 25% increases in attendance. I learned that these programs included: deworming treatments, malaria prevention, and pregnancy prevention for adolescent girls. I chose to support PSI.org.
PSI is more than just unwanted pregnancy prevention. Check out all the amazing things this organization does. PSI tackles the most significant health challenges in the most poverty stricken areas to help people lead healthier (and happier) lives.
The next area of interest for me was Empowerment, Opportunity, and Security. Who doesn't love the idea of donating money towards the empowerment of people? After reading through the various causes, I was drawn to GiveDirectly. An organization that provides cash transfers directly to the poorest people in Kenya and Uganda which allow families to buy much-needed food, shelter, educate their children, and start their own small businesses. It was really inspiring to read the unedited stories about how these cash recipients used their money. It was difficult for me to argue with the fact that these people probably knew more about what they need than I ever could.
Every Bit Counts
It's not like we are rolling a ton of money into these organizations. It's the equivalent to a couple coffee dates per month. The impact calculator finally sealed the deal in helping me realize that even the smallest amount can have a significant impact. We chose to sign up for the automatic withdrawal option, which I would recommend. It affords you the ability to act in a moment of generosity and make a decision that will have an on-going impact. We recently received a hand written letter from PSI sharing that monthly donors provide them with a reliable source of funding that allows them to plan ahead. I sure do appreciate a hand written letter, but more than that I enjoy seeing the monthly withdrawal from my bank account knowing that what would otherwise be wasteful spending, is going towards something much more important.
If you check out The Life You Can Save, let me know which organization spoke to you the most!