Charity Is Addictive

I don’t make a lot of money and I live in one of the most expensive cities in the United States. I’m lucky that I live in an apartment that is less than $1000 a month. I only managed this rent magic, because I took over Male’s apartment when he went to law school, kind of like Indiana Jones removing the gold statue:

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
I’m the bag of sand.
Raiders of the Lost Ark / Paramount Pictures

If not for sneaking in the backdoor of a quasi-rent controlled apartment, I wouldn’t be able to afford to live in the neighborhood I do. I live in what they tout as an arts district, but I don’t know many artists who could afford it. It’s certainly not the starving artist variety of arts district. When Male moved into this apartment fifteen years ago, it hadn’t been gentrified yet.

Fifteen years ago, I lived in another arts district, the big one downtown Los Angeles, long before that was gentrified. The only grocery store was a few miles away in East LA. There were hardly any restaurants or stores, and most of my neighbors were the homeless kind who lived under the 4th Street bridge. The rent for my enormous loft in an old paper mill was $800 a month. At the time, that was pretty pricey for downtown LA, because who in their right mind would want to live DTLA?

Then, a very expensive architectural school moved into the neighborhood, and with it, a shit ton of rich, entitled brats. The homeless people moved elsewhere, and coffee shops and hip, expensive restaurants opened on every corner. Now, smaller lofts in my old building go for upwards of $5000 a month. Fucking hipsters ruin everything.

Ten years ago, when I moved to the satellite arts district I live in now, it was essentially a shithole, much like DTLA when I lived there. We had almost as many homeless people as downtown, but more grocery stores.

The apartment next to mine was rented a few months ago, and disregarding the laws of tact, my neighbors told me how much they pay, which is almost $3000 for a mirror image of my unit. I am very lucky to have rent less than $1000, though I didn’t tell them that. I can never move.

Los Angeles is expensive. Not San Francisco expensive, but expensive nonetheless, and affordable housing is becoming a real problem. Low income people are finding it harder and harder to find a place to live while a new generation of bearded Yuppies who were raised to believe that everyone gets a trophy for just showing up are further marginalizing the already marginalized. Eventually, poor people will be written off the page entirely and will have to commute to LA from the high desert.

Anyway, this rant about hipsters ruining two of my neighborhoods in a row is just the preamble. The real point is that I don’t make much money, but I give a pretty big proportion of what I do make away to charity.

I give proportionately more than all of Wal-mart’s owners combined (though that’s not hard to do–if you give spare change to a homeless person, you essentially give more to charity than all of the Waltons combined) and I probably proportionately give more to charity than Donald Trump, though we have no idea how much he makes or gives to charity in relation. I’d be willing to bet that I give more to charity than he does though–not even proportionate to our incomes, but in total. Last weekend alone, I donated $103 to charity.

Every year, like a good little citizen, I renew my dog’s license, and every year, I double the amount. It costs $20 to renew it and I throw in an extra $20 for animal welfare. This year though, I tripled it. I gave an additional $20 to the spaying and neutering fund, because I am damn tired of seeing homeless animals and I can’t adopt them all.

While I was feeling philanthropic and since I just got paid $23.50 in monthly Redbubble earnings, I went to to see what was what. In October 2015, I started donating the proceeds of my Redbubble shop to charity. The money I make there (roughly $20 a month) isn’t enough to make a difference to me, but it can change the life of someone else.

I was happily surprised to learn that $18 of the first $25 Kiva loan I gave to some Guatemalan women to buy chickens has already been paid back to me. Yay!

I added this month’s Redbubble earnings to Kiva and set about loaning it. First, I loaned money to some Vietnamese women so they could buy piglets. I’m all in favor of Vietnamese piglets.

Screen shot 2016-08-28 at 12.01.21 PMI’m happy to report that their loan was fully funded.

Then, since I had $18 to play with and Kiva only allows loans in $25 increments, I uploaded another $20, enough to make another loan and to donate to Kiva itself. I loaned $25 to a Kyrgyzstani woman to buy a cow. Sadly, that loan wasn’t fully funded, so the $25 was returned to me.

While I feel badly for the Kyrgyzstani woman, it’s okay that her loan wasn’t fully funded since she got the money anyway. You see, when you loan through Kiva, you’re not loaning directly to the person. You’re loaning to the micro-bank that gave the loan. By loaning to the bank and not the person, Kiva donors help micro-banks thrive, making it possible to loan to more people.

So, I had another $25 to lend. Yesterday, I went through all the loans due to expire and I wanted to donate to all of them. Sadly, I could only choose one.

I always loan to women, because they are less likely to get loans through a traditional bank. In most countries, women are paid less and have fewer opportunities than men, even in this one. Someone else can loan to the men; I always loan to women.

But, there were so many women who wanted loans! There was the widow in Georgia who needed new windows for her house before winter. There was the fish monger in Kenya who wanted to buy more fish. There was the woman in Samoa who needed more supplies for the grocery store she runs out of her house. There was the refugee in Ecuador who needed supplies for handmade quilts, her only source of income.

In the end, I chose a group of Cambodian women who need fertilizer for their crop.

Screen shot 2016-08-28 at 12.13.19 PMWith 23 hours left, their loan still isn’t fully funded. If you have $25 lying around that you have nothing better to do with, please, consider lending through Kiva. By loaning $25 that most likely won’t make much difference to you, you can do a world of good for someone else. Or, if you prefer, you can go to my Redbubble shop, buy something, and I’ll donate more (obligatory self-promotion).

I promise you that by clicking the button, it will make you feel more connected, like a proper citizen of the world. It might even make you feel like a better person. Giving to charity is a natural high and it’s entirely addictive. Besides, when they repay the loan, you can give it out to someone else and continue the cycle of good.