If you are a social entrepreneur, volunteer or charity worker, you may have been told that you care too much. We do “too much”, we should be looking out for ourselves more. But can we care too much, and what does it mean?
I myself have received many comments along these lines, particularly recently. When I was on my giving trip with Nalu, I met a woman who, out of nowhere, tied a bracelet around my arm. At first she said she wanted no money, but then took me to a store where she asked for baby formula and rice. When I posted about this on social media, I had a lot of comments telling me that it was a scam, that I should only donate to established charities. However, I felt it was better to give in this situation, scam or not, because people living in poverty often do desperate things to survive. If she were a doctor or ran a successful business, would she still be doing this?
Changes Since I Became a Social Entrepreneur
The concept of caring too much came up in a recent conversation with my family. My dad said that in the two years since I started Moeloco, I’ve really changed, but instead of it being a compliment, he sounded negative! He didn’t seem to understand why I would want to change the lives of people so far removed from our lives in Sydney. But although what I’m doing now is foreign to him, this is my life! He just has a different idea of what caring is, like everyone else, which is why judgement is common when you’re making a difference in the world.
I have also had to move on from a few friendships over the last two years, as unfortunately some people stopped wanting to know about my life as a social entrepreneur. We had nothing in common anymore; I wanted to make a difference, they didn’t. I thought I was close to one friend but one day said he didn’t want to know anything about a trip to India – not even from a tourist perspective! But since my work is so important to me, I’d otherwise have nothing to share.
Do these conversations make me feel like I care too much? Sometimes they do when I’m having a bad day, but it all goes back into perspective when I travel to India and see the children Moeloco helps and their current living conditions. With this plus the hope and joy our work brings, their comments don’t even enter my mind. From my experience so far, if you want to make a difference you have to care!
When I Had to Care
However, when I first realised I had to make a difference, I felt that the poverty was overwhelming. Where do I start; do I have the skills and courage; and who do I think I am? What would I do and how could it all pan out? I had to focus on the fact that the most important thing was to try. Originally I just came from a place that I had to do something. Once you open your eyes and start caring, you can’t stop and forget any longer.
There is one way I do believe that it is possible to care too much, particularly as a social entrepreneur. This is when we neglect ourselves, our family and everyone else who is important in our personal lives. Self-care is essential regardless of the path we’re on; we need to care for ourselves in order to care for others. Looking at the statistics below, I feel that this is an important lesson for all Australians, as we are a very generous country.
Some statistics about how we care:
- In 2015-16, it is estimated that 14.9 million Australians donated a total of $12.5 billion to charities and non-profits. That’s just over 80% of the population! The average donation was $764.
- In the same year, Australian businesses gave over $17 billion, measured as money, goods or services.
- 5.8 million Australians in 2014 (31% of the population) contributed 743 million hours of volunteer work.
- Out of 140 countries, Australia comes third in the 2016 CAF World Giving Index. Myanmar and the USA take out the top two spots. Iraq ranks highest in the index for helping a stranger.
- The top reasons for contributing to a cause are feeling compassion for those in need (90%); wanting to help a cause the donor believes in (86%); wanting to contribute to the community (80%) and being personally affected by the cause (62%) (RedBird Online).
We should celebrate the fact that as a nation, we are a very caring society. However, from my recent experiences, I believe that we need to learn how to understand each other’s ideas of caring. Then, together we can become more able to work on improving how effective our help can be.