Meaningful Giving: Learning to Choose your Charity

By Mary Ramirez

There’s a line from one of my favorite movies—Ever After—which sums up quite neatly why many people choose not to get involved in charitable giving. It’s part of a conversation between Crown Prince Henry II, and the woman he believes to be a courtier—Countess Nicole de Lancret, aka the commoner Danielle de Barbarac. He’s explaining to the very philanthropic (at heart, because she’s flat broke) Danielle why he hasn’t done much to help others with the plethora of resources at his royal disposal. He says:

“Oh, last night, I had a revelation. I used to think, if I cared at all, I would have to care about everything...and I'd go stark raving mad. But, now I've found my purpose. It's a project actually inspired by you. I feel...the most wonderful...freedom.”

There’s a line from one of my favorite movies—Ever After—which sums up quite neatly why many people choose not to get involved in charitable giving. It’s part of a conversation between Crown Prince Henry II, and the woman he believes to be a courtier—Countess Nicole de Lancret, aka the commoner Danielle de Barbarac. He’s explaining to the very philanthropic (at heart, because she’s flat broke) Danielle why he hasn’t done much to help others with the plethora of resources at his royal disposal. He says:

“Oh, last night, I had a revelation. I used to think, if I cared at all, I would have to care about everything...and I'd go stark raving mad. But, now I've found my purpose. It's a project actually inspired by you. I feel...the most wonderful...freedom.”

To be perfectly honest, this is how I often felt. If I helped one charity or one good cause, shouldn’t I help all good causes? I wasn’t so worried, as Henry was, about going “stark raving mad;” Rather, my worry was simply “How can I possibly choose?” Financially, I wouldn’t be able to help everyone and everything. When Henry found his purpose (which the movie later reveals is to build a university) he reveals to us all the secret behind choosing the charity or good cause to support—it has to truly mean something to you; it must be near to your own heart. To be certain, I care deeply about many charitable organizations, and it’s hard to choose between them all. In my case I’ve searched my heart and found that what calls to me are those things that help my church, the military, animals, and children. Imagine my joy when I came across an organization that covers two of the four bases! By donating to SPCAI, I’m thrilled when I think about how each month my money (limited though it may be!) goes to helping soldiers through programs like Operation Bagdad Pups, and to SPCAI’s rescue and shelter endeavors which help animals in crisis across the globe.

From my childhood shelter dog Chelsea, to the puppy mill rescue (Zuzu) that my husband and I own today, shelter animals have always held a special place in my family’s hearts. There really is something unique about an animal that has been rescued; they seem to know that you’ve given them a second chance, and they show their gratitude in special ways each day. Some may find that hard to believe, or even impossible, but just ask people who’ve rescued animals—they’ll tell you it’s absolutely true. Take Beau, a young puppy looked over time and again in the local shelter. After the death of our dear dog Chelsea, my parents decided to bring the family to the animal shelter. Naturally my parents (with a gaggle of very young children in tow) didn’t expect to bring home a Doberman that day, but indeed we did. Beau, for whom my mom chose that name because she was just “so beautiful,” was simply spectacular. When we walked into the shelter, they had many of the dogs out in the “common” area interacting with other prospective owners. Beau was by herself. When we walked out, she came running over . . . and literally groveled at our feet. It was so surreal—it was as if she was saying “Please! Pick me!” Totally smitten, we brought her home.

We had one whole glorious day of playing with our new friend, before something unbelievable happened. Towards the end of that day Beau began acting strangely, and within just moments we could tell she was dangerously ill with something. The vet confirmed our worst fears—Beau had an extremely aggressive condition called Parvo Virus. She died within the week, after spending just one day in our home. Years later, I’m still convinced that Beau knew her time was limited, and she wanted desperately to go home. I’ll never forget the words of my mother, who (devastated herself) in trying to comfort her broken-hearted children, said “But kids, just think! She didn’t die in a shelter. We gave her a home.” As a young child I had many plans for what I wanted to do with my life, and that day solidified another one: “I’ll always give shelter animals a home.”

I’m one of four children. I am immensely proud of all of my siblings and their accomplishments—especially those of my brother, who served a tour of combat duty in Iraq. Those months were some of the hardest of our lives, as we waited for that next phone call or email from him telling us he was ok. One of the things we began doing to help ease our nerves was to write letters to soldiers, send care packages, and get the word out about organizations that helped soldiers in a variety of ways. To know that were really doing something helped to pass the time. It wasn’t long after his tour that I came across Operation Baghdad Pups, and fell in love. To be able to help and promote an organization that fulfilled my heart’s desire of helping animals AND soldiers, was a dream come true.

To be certain, times are very hard. In our tough economy people have lost jobs, possessions, homes, and most of all—hope. Yet, no matter how hard things get, or what tough times may befall my family, one of the few constants in this world is the bouncing ball of fur who comes bounding towards the front door each evening to greet us with joy; a dear little dog who, if not for a rescue organization not unlike SPCAI, wouldn’t be alive today. If one little animal can bring such hope and encouragement to two regular people, imagine what an animal can do for a soldier—someone whose life is far more complicated than we’ll ever fathom; someone who lives and breathes to fight for our freedoms. If (like Prince Henry) you discover your purpose in life, and if it is to be there for our brave military or our world’s needy animals, consider the SPCAI. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Join our Cause

Stop the suffering.
Save lives with SPCA International.

Sign up for SPCA International alerts to receive regular updates on animals in crisis and how you can help.