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Tag: charity

Last night, I met my friend Nathan at the Taoyuan train station. We decided to go the night market, so we hailed a cab and jumped in. Before I mention what happened, I should point out that I generally like cab drivers in Taiwan. They’re usually personable, chatty, and sometimes even interesting. This particular guy, on the other hand, was almost a caricature of a Chinese cab driver. The conversation below all happened in Chinese, of course.

Me: Hi. We want to go to the night market.
Driver: Oh! Can you speak Chinese!!?
Nathan: Uh…. yeah.
Driver: You guys are Americans, right? Right?
Me: Yep. We live here, though.
Driver: What do you do? Are you teachers?
Nathan: He is, and I’m a volunteer worker.
Driver: What do you mean? What do you do?
Nathan: I do work at hospitals and juvenile reform centers…
Driver: Do they pay you?
Nathan: No, it’s all volun…
Driver: They don’t PAY you? Why do you do it?
Nathan: To help people. It’s…
Driver: No salary? I wouldn’t do it!

I’m sure a lot of westerners secretly think the same way. I’ve never heard any say it so bluntly, though. Even if it’s only lip-service and they can’t really relate to volunteerism or charity, they’re at least familiar with what would motivate other people to engage in those activities.

Tomorrow, I turn 28. That means that one more year of my life is gone, and that I can’t have it back, ever. All my decisions, conscious and unconscious, have taken what was once an infinite tree of years that could have been, and ruthlessly pruned them down to a single year that was. Some things were good- I made some great friends that I will likely know for many more years to come, I managed to save about a thousand $US a month, and I found a great way to express myself and organize my thoughts in blogging. Other things weren’t so good- I’ve gotten even more out of shape, I haven’t learned too much Chinese, and I haven’t made so much progress in terms of career development. As such, I need to choose goals for my next year, now.

Before I turn 29, I’ll…

  • Improve my Chinese: I’ll learn how to read and write 500 more Chinese characters, and I’ll also read at least five kid’s books in Chinese.
  • Lose 50 pounds: I know I don’t look it, but I’m 225 pounds. I know I’ll be losing a fair bit of muscle as I drop down to 175; I’m aware of the trade-offs, and I accept them.
  • Be a good friend to at least two more people than I am now.
  • Give more: instead of just giving a tenth of my income to charity, I’ll also give some of my time to help those less fortunate than I am. It’s a small start, but I’ll do at least 20 hours of volunteer work.
  • Enjoy the good things: I’ll think less about what I’m unhappy with, and more about what I have to be grateful for.

When my old friend, Mike Duckwitz, got married this winter, he and his wife asked for an unusual wedding gift. Instead of gifts for themselves, they asked for donations to ASODECIGUA which is a charity for malnourished children that they worked with during their time in Guatemala. I’ve lived in Guatemala for a while myself and seen some pretty shocking poverty far beyond anything I’ve seen either in the US or here in Taiwan. Here’s what Mke’s wife, Claire, said on their wedding page:

Chronic malnutrition impacts 40% of the children in Guatemala. During our trips to Guatemala we worked in a hospital/orphanage with many children who had either been malnourished at some point in their lives (and were suffering from the permanent damage this had caused) or who were being treated for this while we were there.

Mike, Claire, I have to say you two are an awesome couple for choosing this sort of wedding gift. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anybody else doing this. The fact that you went to the trouble of creatingworking with a non-profit organization, Water for the Americas, so that donations can be tax-deductable makes it just that much better.