I spent my final semester of college panicked. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to reconcile my hope to do good in the world with my desire to eat something other than ramen. I've since realized that I'm not alone: Most of us—and not just the recent college grads—struggle to find ways to help others without ruining our own lives. Given my student loans, can I really afford to work for that African aid group? Should I take a high-paying job and make larger charitable donations? Or earn less and volunteer my time? Will joining a group on Facebook actually change anything in Darfur? Should I give money to NPR because I listen to it while I get ready for work, or make my charitable giving decisions based on the world's biggest needs? Each of these problems requires us to balance our nobler desires with the day-to-day realities of our lives.
Whenever I grapple with questions like these, I always end up turning to my mom—Patty Stonesifer, former CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Sometimes I take her advice, and sometimes I don't, but I always value her opinion. With decreasing time and money to give, increasing world need, and a lack of licensed philanthropy counselors, we thought Slate readers might find my mom helpful, too. We've been talking about these issues around the kitchen table for years, and this January we're moving that conversation to Slate. We'll be co-writing "My Goodness," a weekly advice column where we'll answer reader questions about how to do good in the world—or, at least, how to try to do better.
We need your help to get started. Can you please send your real-life do-gooding dilemmas? What are your hopes, your constraints, your motivations? Be sure you tell us in as much detail as you can. Send it all to firstname.lastname@example.org and check back in the new year for our answers.
In our ongoing effort to do better ourselves, we're donating 25 percent of the proceeds from this column to ONE.org—an organization committed to raising public awareness about the issues of global poverty, hunger, and disease and the efforts to fight such problems in the world's poorest countries.