How much good can doing good actually do?

Good morning Loves.  During the holidays I volunteered with my co-workers at a soup kitchen where we gave food to families in need.  There are so many ways to give to charity such as donate money, volunteer time at events and fundraising through our networks.

I don’t like to donate money; I prefer to volunteer my time.  Volunteering at a soup kitchen was a new experience for me because I usually volunteer my time for specific fundraising events such as a triathlon for The Children’s Hospital and a two day walk for The Weekend to End Women’s Cancers.  I have never actually volunteered onsite at an event where the recipients of the charity were present.  Believe me when I say, it was definitely an interesting experience.

Are people really in need or just being greedy?

As I was standing at our designated table handing out food to the supposed needy people I was honestly shocked at what I saw.  People were lining up with empty grocery bags waiting to fill them up with free food; it was as if it was their weekly routine.  Even more surprising than people wanting a free handout was some people actually said they didn’t want certain items such as vegetables.  One woman told us she didn’t want any more pasta noodles because she still has a lot left over from last week.  I thought to myself if these people are truly in need, wouldn’t they be grateful for any and all food offered to them?

One couple came through the line not as a family, but as individuals so they could get twice as much food.  Afterwards this couple took their ten large grocery bags full of food and packed them into the back of their car.  That’s right this “needy” couple drove their car to get free food because they couldn’t afford food…but they could afford a car.  I thought to myself, are these people really needy?

I actually didn’t think it to myself I said it aloud, which sparked an unpleasant conversation with my co-worker.   She said that we are doing something nice for people in need.  I agreed that yes it’s nice to help people in need and I believe that some people are in need, just not everyone in that room was needy.

What qualifies as in need?

In my humble opinion if you can afford a car , if you can afford to get your hair dyed and if you have money to get your nails done then you are not in need.  You have money; you are just spending it in all the wrong places.  Not having money is one thing, but mismanaging your money is a whole other topic.  If you can’t properly manage your money you don’t need a handout, you just need a financial planner.

The director of the event told us that in order for people to qualify for the bi weekly (twice a week) food drive they need to show proof of low income.  Although she does admit that these papers can be falsified and there will always be people who want to take advantage of free services.

Do you have a favorite charity?

Photo by tahnyakristina


  • Sadly, that’s why people lose faith in charitable work. I sure can see how you feel. I have decided to give to people that I actually know who need help who come across my path. There aren’t as many it seems but that way you feel like they aren’t falsifying info, etc. Otherwise we end up enabling those who are dishonest. It goes round and round. Thanks for the post.

    • That’s true. I guess it’s a cycle and I know that the intention was good, but I just didn’t feel good when it was over.

  • I have to say, I get where you’re coming from, but I really think you’re looking at it the wrong way. Certainly, I wasn’t there, but there’s often a disconnect between what looks like actual need and what actually is need.

    We often seem to want our poor or needy people to look like they are poor. Like right on the brink. But most poor people don’t look like hobos. That doesn’t mean they’re not making the choice between paying rent and buying food. Plenty of people who were middle class have had to rely on food banks in recent years because of the recession. If you have a car and lose your job, why would you get rid of your car? You’d take a loss selling it, and then it would be harder to find a new job.
    Similarly, I’ve heard people complain when people receiving benefit have iPhones or nice clothes. You don’t know where those things came from. they could have been gifts, or purchased before things got rough.
    Most people don’t take advantage, but some do. don’t assume that just because someone doesn’t look unkempt or like some Dickensian street urchin that they’re not in need. I have almost gone to food banks in the past because of periods of unemployment. I have two masters degrees and am decidedly middle class, but the class of society I was born into doesn’t guarantee me a job or a roof over my head.

    • Yes that is absolutely true. I guess I shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but I just can’t help but think that some people take advantage of services that others actually need. I should also probably try to look at my day of community service through the grateful eyes of all the people I helped who are truly in need, and just ignore the bad apples.

  • I think that just because someone needs help managing their finances, it doesn’t mean they don’t need help filling their pantry. I have volunteered in soup kitchens, and have often had the same sentiment. It is hard to volunteer your time, and feel totally unappreciated. But at the end of the day, I think we all realize that we aren’t their to feel appreciated, but to help. It is easy to get hung up on the blacks and whites of many social issues surrounding poverty, but the reality of it is that it is so gray and fuzzy that there is no easy answer. I only have control over my actions, no one else’s. I can’t make someone get a job, budget better, hire a financial planner, or be grateful. I can help. And I can do it resentfully, or I can do it gracefully with an open heart, and no judgement. We have no idea why these people are in need, but I certainly hope that if I find myself in line at a soup kitchen, I am only getting served up some food, and not a healthy dose of judgement.

  • WOW Laura, you nailed it. I should be thankful that these types of programs exist, instead of being resentful of the people who take advantage of other’s kind hearts. Did it sound like I was judging? Just my observations. Either way I think I’ll stick to volunteering at fundraising events.

    • TK, I wouldn’t say judging, but maybe making assupmtions, which I do too. I just get a little passionate because I live in an area with a large homeless population, and as frustrated as some may get for people taking advantage of help they don’t need, I see the filp side where people who truly need help won’t take it, and that is frustrating too. It is an ugly problem with no easy answer, and it is definitely not an easy way to serve and not for everyone. I truly believe that we make the most impact on the world by doing things we are passionate about, so if fundraising events are your thing, Kudos to you. All that really matters is that you are helping someone somewhere. Doing good is doing good, period!

  • I’ve been a long-time reader of this blog, and always enjoyed checking in, but this post has totally rubbed me the wrong way. A lot of these observations are quite ignorant. Poverty exists all over this country. You don’t need to be homeless or carless or jobless to be in need of a little help. And not everyone is as knowledgeable as you or I would be in money management, a lot of people simply don’t have access to the education.

    “As I was standing at our designated table handing out food to the supposed needy people I was honestly shocked at what I saw. People were lining up with empty grocery bags waiting to fill them up with free food” — I’m sorry, what is so shocking about this? You were there to hand out food and people were there to receive it! And is it rude for the woman to ask for no pasta, or is there a chance she was actually being LESS GREEDY by allowing another family in need to take it? Is there a chance that the family loading up their van with food was actually going to distribute it amongst loved ones without transportation options? Please try to be a little more open-minded to things like this.

    There is a wonderful documentary out there called “A Place at the Table” that explores this more in depth. PLEASE educate yourself before posting anything like this. I know you probably didn’t intend for this post to be taken so negatively, but I was genuinely shocked by what I just read!

    • Hi Val,
      Thanks for your comment. I will definitely check out the documentary you suggested. I know that homelessness is a serious problem and I am grateful that cities provide help for those in need. All I was saying is that based on my personal experience, not everyone at the food drive seemed to be in need. That was just my opinion and we are all entitled to form our own conclusions based on our personal experience, just like you did.

      • I never comment on posts, but I agree that this definitely rubbed me the wrong way. I have to say I agree with what Val has posted above. I honestly was going to rant about how close-minded opinions like this are the problem with society, but I realize that for you to learn to treat others with compassion, others must also treat you with compassion.

        While I see you think this type of volunteering is not for you, I strongly encourage you to go again. After working at a Soup Kitchen daily for the past year, my views on this topic have been transformed.

        These “supposed needy people” generally are just that – needy people. Those nice clothes they are wearing? That may be the only outfit they have and it was given to them from a Christmas clothing drive(this is true for a lot of our clients). The car they are driving? They may need it to drive to their minimum wage job which only covers the cost of housing and transportation to and from work. They may need it to drive their children to school. They may live in it.

        The moral of the story here is that you just don’t know what everyone is going through. The day you went may have just been one of those days that there’s more days in the month than money left, or a medical emergency came up and they couldn’t afford to pay for both it and food. The problem in our society is that everyone is so quick to judge others around them without first understanding what they are going through. I guess what I’m saying is this, “Everyone you meet is fighting their own battle you know nothing about. Be kind.”

  • The van I drive was a gift from my parents because or other one broke down and we couldn’t afford another one. We’re supposed to be paying them back, but I haven’t made a payment in six months. I am typing this on an iPad, but it technically belongs to my work and I just get to bring it home when I’m not working. Otherwise I wouldn’t have a computer or other internet device. I agree that a lot of people scam the system, but I also know that you cannot tell much of anything about someone’s income and circumstances just by looking at them.

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