Naughty or Nice? The Mandala

A beautiful mandala with no lateral symmetry

A beautiful mandala with no lateral symmetry

I really like this 5-pointed mandala. Mandalas with odd numbers of sides are such rebels. This one has a high degree of skew to it, but it seems like that effect is mitigated by the lack of lateral symmetry.

That’s all I have to say on the subject of this mandala, but if you are still reading, I’d like to say a few words about giving to charity. A lot of people save their big charitable donations for the end of the year, and while we should probably support charities all year round, I’m guilty of this myself. Although I don’t have a lot of money, I do try to give.

My top charity is Love146. Did you know that in the US alone, it’s estimated that 100,000 children live in sexual slavery? Can you even imagine what the global number of trafficked and exploited kids is? Love146 helps rescue children from sexual slavery. It provides safe homes and good food and useful education and psychological support for children whose lives might have been thrown away and restores these kids to the world. It teaches them that they have value and a purpose of their own and offers them new families to protect and care for them so that they can grow up strong and healthy.

I’m also enamored of Heifer International. I first encountered this group in my first real job out of college. I worked in a satellite office and one year, right before Christmas, I received a card from a woman in the main office, a woman with whom I worked over the phone and online. The card explained that a goat had been donated in my name. A goat! How can you not support that? If goats aren’t your thing, you can donate chickens, or bees, or rabbits, or alpacas, or basically any useful farm animal, in your friends’ names. Are you rich? You can give a water buffalo! People’s lives are changed through these donations; a starving family with a chicken suddenly has food and a business. Furthermore, donees are required to donate some of their animal’s offspring so that the entire village eventually benefits from your gift.

Charity:Water is another worthy group. They dig wells in remote villages. This is bigger than it sounds. In a lot of third world countries, drinking water is not immediately accessible. It typically falls to women or children to walk miles to the nearest source of water, and this water is often not clean by American standards. Further, it can be dangerous for women and children to be walking at all in some of these regions. So your 11-year-old daughter might spend 4 hours a day fetching and carrying muddy drinking water. Or she might never come home because you live in a war zone. I believe this group also builds bathrooms in remote regions. You cannot imagine how dangerous it is for women and children to relieve themselves in certain parts of the world, not to mention how difficult it is to practice any sort of hygiene without running water and plumbing.

Doctors without Borders/Medecins sans Frontieres send emergency medical assistance in the wake of natural and manmade disasters, often risking their lives to help others. Their quick response time mitigates humanitarian crises, saves lives, and can prevent epidemics from spreading. They’re a fairly well-known medical charity, and I’ve supported them for a while. A slightly less well-known medical charity, Partners in Health, maintains clinics in places where medical care is difficult to access. They have been especially effective in treating chronic tuberculosis around the world. I learned about this group, and its amazing founder, Dr. Paul Farmer, after meeting the wonderful writer Tracy Kidder and reading his Pulitzer-winning book about Dr. Farmer, Mountains beyond Mountains. I can’t recommend this charity, or this book, enough. Paul Farmer is one of the most inspirational people about whom you will ever read, if geniuses giving selflessly and tirelessly inspire you.

The Southern Poverty Law Center does excellent work in tracking hate groups and, whenever possible, taking them to court. Their mission is to fight for civil rights, and generally speaking, the people they are fighting against are Nazis, or people whose politics and beliefs are so aligned with Nazis that it’s hard for the rest of us to perceive the difference. They also produce a lot of teaching tolerance material. But seriously, they fight Nazis. Unless you are a Nazi yourself, I have trouble understand how you could not support this mission.

Whenever I see the banner ads on Wikipedia, I send them $5. A lot of people ignore these pleas for donations, but Wikimedia is, after all a charitable organization, and their mission is nothing less than making the sum total knowledge of humankind available for free to everyone in the world. This is a noble goal, and furthermore, whether we admit it or not, most of us use Wikipedia on a regular basis. Yes, I know, people criticize the site and question its reliability and insist that it’s not a good academic source. Perhaps, but it’s a great general source. It’s an encyclopedia. You’re not supposed to cite encyclopedias anyway. You use them to get a grasp of a new subject, to learn an overview and pick up keywords to find more specific information. Bonus: you want original sources? The entire bottom of the page is nothing but links to original sources. If you don’t think Wikipedia is a) hugely useful and b) hugely important, you’re either lying, or not on the Internet, or lack curiosity. I’m there almost every day.

And finally, I always send a few bucks to Planned Parenthood. I could talk about how they provide reliable and affordable healthcare to millions of women. I could talk about how they subsidized, for many years, birth control I could not otherwise afford. I could talk about their educational programs. But mostly, I donate to stick it to those kneejerk fundamentalists who go around with giant anti-abortion banners, people who are so in love with their own ignorance that they’re completely unaware of what the Bible actually says about abortion (hint: a fetus is considered the property of its parents, not a living being. Look it up. Or don’t. I’m well aware that people don’t like to see reason on this issue) and so unaware of their own hypocrisy that the second that unwanted child is forced into the world, they’re ready to condemn it for being poor, being gay, and so on. There are seven billion people in the world and millions of unwanted kids languishing in social services. If you want to protect a kid, try helping one that’s already here.

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