$100 or 100 Friends

This morning, someone on my Facebook feed posed a tantalizing question – Would you rather have $100 or 100 friends?

The question seemed particularly timely since just last night I had a (pleasant) argument with a certain street canvasser who seemed convinced I wasn’t doing my part philanthropically.

Ever since my illustrious 2-day stint working for MassPirg, I’ve made a point of being friendly to street canvassers, but I rarely, if ever, donate that way since I find it an inefficient fundraising tool with questionable labor practices.

Usually my conversations simply entail a quick, polite exchange, but the gentleman last night was particularly persistent. He started with a soft sell of small talk, then asked that I at least hear him out before repeatedly refusing my rebuffs.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a pleasant conversation – even if it was 15 degrees out I could talk all day about the philosophy of philanthropy. But I was fairly certain I was wasting his time.

When I first declined, saying that I had other philanthropic obligations, he said:

Let me ask you this – if you had more money would you give to more things?

That seemed an odd question. I paused.

No, no no, he corrected, if you had all the money would you give to all the things?

Probably not all the things, I told him. Before he could clarify what he meant by “all” I explained my hesitation –

If I had more money, I think, it would be a question of whether its better to give to more things or to give more to the same things. Since I don’t have more money, I told him, I hadn’t given that question sufficient thought.

He was nonplussed.

He wanted me to commit to giving $1 a day to his organization. Is there anything in your life, he asked, that you wouldn’t be able to do if you gave $7 a week more?

Well….yes, I told him.

He didn’t believe me.

Now it’s perfectly fair to question whether I do enough philanthropically. I probably don’t. And I probably should do more.

Can I give $7 a week more? That’s a really good question and one I should ask myself constantly. One I should push myself on. I don’t honestly know the answer, and I’m probably won’t be able to determine the answer standing on a street corner talking to a stranger.

But it’s a good question to think about.

And now I come back to the original question – Would you rather have $100 or 100 friends?

I guess the truth is $100 doesn’t go that far. Whether you spend it on yourself or give it away, unless you’re in need of the food or shelter $100 could help provide, it doesn’t really provide much value.

$100 or 100 friends?

I think I’d rather have 100 conversations with strangers.


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