while walking to a downtown concert last week i was approached by a homeless man. in chicago, a group of homeless try selling a newspaper, more of a brochure, really...for whatever charitable donation they can get for it. the paper is written by, printed by and completely constructed by the local homeless people (donations...such as printing presses and the paper it is printed on are not only welcome, but encouraged.) it wasn't the first time this has happened. and truth be told, i'm a lot more likely to keep walking past the guy without any remorse because either i have someplace to be, i have no disposable income to pass out, or maybe even just indifferent to their current situation at that particular time.
i flipped the guy a five...wished him luck and told him he could keep the newspaper for his next "sale". and know what? i felt sort of good about myself. but that got me to thinking...why do we give to charity? i know there can be charitable donations for tax reasons. and there is the feeling that you may have done something, however inconsequencial, to make a part of some elses life just a bit better. but i thought for the first time, i did that for me. i feel better having done that.
is that selfish? that is, can an act of kindness be as much (or more) about yourself than about whom you are trying to help? and if so...is it still a charitable act?