Charitable giving in the United States (inspired by Mario Marathon)

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Sundeep Rao.  I present it to you unedited (except for a few minor style changes and the insertion of URLs where appropriate), because he is the master of grammar, spelling and punctuation.  Any errors you think you see are a figment of your imagination.   P.S. Felicia Day, if you read this, Sundeep is a good guy and I would never throw him under a bus.

To make one point absolutely clear: I am by no means ignoring the contributions of the non-Americans who donated to the Mario Marathon — our Aussie and European contingents were pretty strong there! We even got some money from Croatia, if I recall correctly. This short essay came up as one of the answers that surfaces whenever people ask me (and they ask often): “What is it that you like about the United States?”

Two years ago, a month before I went home to India, I placed an empty gallon-jug outside my office, and sent an email out to office mates asking for their spare change for an orphanage that I knew about. I remember GrumpyRich walking up to it with his desk drawer, and emptying out saved pennies into it. Other colleagues would return from a breakfast or coffee run, and throw their change into the jug. Sooner than I knew, I had $400, which was received with great joy by the orphanage.

Mario Marathon currently stands at $82,113 raised for Child’s Play Charity — a mind-boggling amount by any reckoning. What makes this even more special is that I know that many of the donors didn’t really have cash to spare — for this or any other cause. What motivated them to give? Why did we need to start adding “donate, but donate only what you can — if you can’t donate, you can help by spreading the word” at every exhortation subsequently? Why were there people apologizing because they couldn’t donate any more than they already had to the cause?

As a person surrounded by numerous individuals of great generosity, I come across fundraisers and fundraising attempts on a reasonably regular basis. Some notable ones (other than Child’s Play/Mario Marathon) are the National MS Society and the various Pounds/Animal Shelters/Humane Societies. I see a similar outpouring of generosity from supporters of those causes. Breast Cancer, March of Dimes, United Way, Red Cross, Good Will- the list just goes on and on. The effort to raise money covers the gamut: local stores have a plastic candy jar with a slot cut out of the top, and a handwritten note highlighting the cause- while The Race For The Cure is so huge that just the logistics of organizing a race in one town can be daunting.

How charitable giving came to be so pervasive (perhaps from the idea of tithes?) is not part of this discussion, but its ubiquitousness is clearly visible.

In my experience, people from other countries and cultures share what they have- typically their houses, and their food. Americans feel the same connections, but they provide their hospitality to vast numbers of complete strangers. I think that the best thing that could happen to any charitable cause is to have a bunch of Americans hear about it and take some interest.

When I first hung out on BBSs in the Internets’ nascent years, the one overarching idea one walked away with is just how neat the people using the Internet were. Some of the people I “met” online during that time are still friends of mine IRL. Over the years, weirdos started hanging out- and one would run into them with increasing frequency (Online daters: make sure that “having teeth” is a prominently listed requirement). But spending time with the MM Social Stream and Chat reminded me again just how much fun the interwebs can be.  WTG, MMers — making any sort of dent in my cynicism is no mean feat!

My assertion has long been that charitable giving is now an essential part of American culture — and the Mario Marathon epitomizes this. I’m glad to have played a small part in this effort.  One last thing that I’d like to make sure to mention: The community response to the cause was so scintillatingly phenomenal that it left me speechless, and more than a little verklempt.  It was an honor and a pleasure doing this, and interacting with all of you.

OrangeShirtGuy (Sundeep) is one of the Elders of the Internet and a Keeper of the Sacred Pun. An Eastern Mystic, he can be followed, but probably not understood at