Reading a book and giving to charity are no doubt very personal endeavors. It is with that in mind that I very gently but passionately recommend a book that changed my life, The Life You Can Save: How to Do Your Part to End World Poverty by Peter Singer. (Visit the website here.)
I have been a fan of Peter Singer for decades. He's the Australian philosopher who wrote the seminal book Animal Liberation (1975). The Wikipedia page for Animal Liberation describes it/him best:
The book is widely considered within the animal liberation movement to be the founding philosophical statement of its ideas. Singer himself rejected the use of the theoretical framework of rights when it comes to human and nonhuman animals: he argued that the interests of animals should be considered because of their ability to feel suffering and that the idea of rights was not necessary in order to consider them.
But this post isn't about animals or rights. It's about about human suffering, and, moreover, alleviating that suffering. Specifically, global poverty. Peter Singer argues in his easy to read and persuasive book The Life You Can Save that we can all contribute to the reduction of poverty and suffering. And we must.
As a spiritualist and a hypnotherapist, I believe all real change begins in the mind. The world simply cannot change without changing our minds. If we see ourselves as separate from everyone and every being and everything, the world cannot heal. If we see ourselves as intricately connected, the world can't help but heal. Thus the real shift in perception is from fear to love. Once we make that shift, we naturally extend that love out into the world, in whatever form or behavior we feel moved to do so. That extension changes other minds. A shift occurred in Singer's mind that then shifted my mind that I hope will shift yours. It is a shift to oneness. And the end result is a changed world.
A Course in Miracles defines a Teacher of God as one who does not see another's interests as separate from his own. In Course terms, to teach is to demonstrate. Therefore, the person who demonstrates God, or Love or Something higher than their own ego, is the person who understands that there is really only one of us here. What we do for another (and that includes all of us, humans and non-human animals) we do for ourselves.
As many of you, I have an automatic withdrawal set up for a charity here in North America that speaks to my heart (Farm Sanctuary). But after reading Singer's book last year, I was inspired to think globally and set up another monthly automatic withdrawal for a charity called Seva Foundation, a organization that works to prevent blindness and restore sight worldwide. It's a charity dear to me and my husband Brad because he was born with very poor eyesight, and up until third grade he thought the world was blurry. (Anything six inches in front of him or farther is blurred!) As a child, he had no idea it was his eyes, but his blurred vision had far-reaching painful effects. Effects that were allayed only after he got glasses.
Part of my time here in the world is spent working in the animal rights movement, attending protests and worldwide demonstrations, advocating for animal rights through my writing, and so forth. I think about global animal rights issues daily, but I didn't used to think about global poverty issues daily. I do however ponder human suffering daily, as it is my profession to alleviate it, but now global poverty is on my to-do list. And one way to do something about it is to give what I can monetarily.
Not only does giving money alleviate global poverty, it also alleviates global poverty by healing my own scarcity thoughts. I contribute to healing poverty in the world by healing my poverty thinking. Thus, giving money brings about an abundance consciousness in the giver. It says, "If I am giving to you, then I must have something to give." Giving focuses on the abundance I already have rather than scarcity I think I have. And what we focus on multiplies. Okay, I don't want to get too metaphysical here, but trust me when I say it's a win-win for the giver and the receiver.
In the end, I share this information with you because even though giving to charity is often private, even honorably anonymous, or in the least, a very personal endeavor, I think transparency in who we are giving to and why can also be edifying. Through our efforts, another might be inspired and so forth. And one day, we wake up and it's a different world. Because we are different people.
For a list of Peter Singer's top ten most effective charities and where you can donate, click here. (All of the charities have been scrutinized by charity watchdogs and deemed effective.)