Sandy Cohen, R.N. and Roger Cormier, M.A.

  We are suffering a time of unprecedented economic upheaval and frightening financial losses. Does this excuse us from giving to those in need, near and afar?

  As generous as Americans may be, we waste and often needlessly consume. For example, we throw away $100 billion worth of packaged, non-expired food per year. During the recession many are learning to live on and consume less and are discovering how freeing a simpler lifestyle can be.

  Even as many of us tighten our belts, tens of millions of people around the globe continue to die from malnutrition, bad water, insect bites and AIDS. Peter Singer in “The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty (Random House, 2009, available new and used from $1.50) identifies nonprofit organizations through which we can provide safe water for villagers for $10 per person; restore sight at $50 per person; save individual lives for as little as $200 per person.

  Singer addresses the moral call to individually and collectively end world poverty. In the last 50 years we have cut in half the number of children who die before their fifth birthday because of poverty. Economists believe that by the middle of this century we can virtually eliminate extreme poverty, though the combination of economic uncertainty and volatile food prices could halt or even reverse the positive trend.

  If we are gainfully employed with moderate debt and savings, we can give to the charities of our choice. Singer’s web site ( provides a giving calculator to suggest reasonable percentages (as low as one percent) of annual income that we can pledge to charities. Several thousand visitors, including retirees, already have made pledges totaling more than $68,000,000 based on his calculations. He also refers to web sites ( and that can help identify charities that can stretch our giving dollars through less top heavy and more efficient operations.


Those who have only enough to pay their modest bills often give by volunteering. Whether we give money and/or volunteer our time, studies find that those who give are more often happy and less likely to feel hopeless. Can it be that underneath dire financial headlines a quiet invitation speaks to our hearts to live simply, gratefully and joyfully as persons and communities of compassion. Giving benefits the giver as much as, and sometimes more than the receiver.