Help Like a Normal Person

Giving can go wrong -- especially when it's on a large scale and in the hands of celebrities with terrible money management.

Being a celebrity is a beautiful thing -- the masses know your name, you have the option to live in a multi-million dollar estate, many of your cares and worries blow away in the wind, and if so inclined, you can actually use your helping powers.

But recent evidence shows that celebrities have been using charities and causes to further their financial means under the guise of philanthropy. Money isn't the butter that makes giving easy; it's from the heart. It comes from deep within. Case in point: Lady Gaga is currently being sued for guzzling money from her charity, which sold "We Pray for Japan" wristbands after the Japan tsunami crisis. Each wristband was sold for $5, plus $3.99 for shipping and handling, and $0.60 for taxes. It is alleged that Lady Gaga elevated the price of said wristbands and kept much of the money.

You don't have to have a million dollars to make a million-dollar difference.

Lady Gaga isn't the only money-challenged musical superstar; Wyclef Jean and his charity, the Yele Haiti Foundation, are also culprits. The Yele Foundation aimed to raise $1 million after the Haiti earthquake. After IRS audits, it was revealed that Yele paid $410,000 in rent for Wyclef and his business partner, in addition to other fees spent on production services, for example paying Wyclef to attend his own benefit concert.

So money clearly doesn't do it all. Helping like a normal person is more noble and more cost-efficient than ever before. You can help by just listening and responding. You can help by just offering advice. You can help by smiling. In our world we seem to think that if you can't make a large-scale, celebrity-influenced difference, then it doesn't count, but it does.

Yesterday at the laundromat, I had the pleasure of the company of three little kids. I say "pleasure" because as trivial as it may seem, it was really a pleasure. Like the big kid that I am, I was hogging the racing video game, so naturally, a crowd of kids started to form and watched me as I zoomed, crashed, twisted and turned past the other virtual cars. All the kids wanted to play, but none of their parents would let them, not because of the steep, 25-cent price tag, but because they didn't want to deal with the excitement that would ensue or the long list of stories that would come after.

So, I snuck the kids each one quarter and proceeded to let them play. I can't even tell you how much fun we had. They told me their favorite colors and how their sister likes to braid their hair, and how many cartwheels they can do -- just a bunch of useless information to the untrained eye, but to the giving eye it was an experience of bonding and connecting with people who are just like you, no matter their age, race, size, etc. This is an important feeling that we can sometimes miss out on when we are worried about funneling money into charities and bank accounts; we simply forget to listen, laugh and love!

Everyone possesses these powers, and from my experience, these are the only ones necessary to change the world.