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The Price of Giving

August 31, 2018




“If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches, and poor men’s cottages princes’ palaces. It is a good divine that follows his own instructions: I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done, than be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching.”

            ~~~William Shakespeare in The Merchant of Venice


Once again, it seems as though temptation took hold of someone who started with good intentions, only to have the situation engulf their conscience.


Just yesterday, a judge ordered Kate McClure and her boyfriend Mark D’Amico to hand over all of the money collected from their GoFundMe page in support of Johnny Bobbitt- the homeless man who gave his last $20 to help her.


This story is fascinating.  It could have a been another case study for Adam Grant and his book Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success.


Bobbitt helped McClure.  McClure then started a GoFundMe page to help him.  Over 14,000 people, spanning from all over the world, decided to pitch in and help Bobbitt, showing him how much they appreciated and respected his act of selflessness.


It even inspired me. I included their story as the focal point for my final poem in Not So Simple.  It emphasized the power of community.  It emphasized what happens when we come together to try and make a difference.


But this story has highlighted another, not often discussed part of giving: if one person or organization is the sole collector of the massive amount of giving, can you trust them to disseminate the funds properly?


This is a question I’ve considered since we’ve fundraised over $13,000 throughout the past 9 months to help those impacted by the Thomas Fire and homelessness. I’ve heard rumblings of how the Salvation Army and other outlets have been holding onto cash and resources that were donated in the immediate aftermath of the Thomas Fire, although I can not personally confirm this…


When there is tragedy, there is an outpouring of people passing along currency and supplies to help others get back on their feet.  More often than not there is a surplus, and the items sit in warehouses or bank accounts, not working for the intended cause.


When my friend handed me a check for $1,000 to help victims of the Thomas Fire, he playfully slapped me on the back and said, “Don’t let me see you with new shoes on Monday.” I knew exactly what he meant.  He was entrusting me with his generosity. He believed in the cause, now he had to believe in the person to carry it out.  Because when that kind of money transfers hands we never know if it will reach its intended audience. We hope. But mismanaging money is not uncommon.


And this is where McClure and her boyfriend found themselves.  They had collected all of this money for Bobbitt. And it sat.  Staring at them in their bank account, they wilted under the temptation and allure of all those extra numbers added to their once honest checking account.


One strategy I learned long ago when deciding to be a facilitator of help was this: When the funds come in, they must quickly go out.  Have a landing spot lined up.  Because the longer those funds sit, the more the brain can rationalize that you are entitled to a little chunk of change.  And from reading interviews from McClure and her boyfriend in the Philadelphia Inquirer, that seems to be the case.


Helping the homeless is hard. Bobbitt is an addict and has been in and out of rehab over the past six months.  Giving large amounts of cash to someone struggling with addiction would not be wise.  But just because it’s challenging to create a structure to properly pass out the money Bobbitt is rightfully entitled to, doesn’t mean you can purchase a BMW, go on a California vacation, and live lavishly off of others’ generosity.


This saga will be over in the next two weeks now that the courts are involved. In the meantime, Bobbitt is currently living less than a mile from me, under an Old City bridge waiting to see how his luck might change. 


My hope is that he gets the generosity that people purposefully passed his way. He deserves that. 



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[Update: The money was mismanaged by McClure and Mark D'Amico.  But luckily for Bobbit, GoFundMe will be paying Bobbit his portion. ]

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