Yep, that time of the year again, folks. I mean Ramadhan, not another wave of global credit crunch, although if we look back at 2008, the first crisis also folded out during Ramadhan. I’m neither historian nor futurologist, so that’s as much of comparison as I’m willing to do here on the subject.
Let’s go back to Ramadhan. Besides the ever-worsening traffic jams around dusk and premature retail sale at malls, what else is common?
Alms. Sadaqah. Charity.
Two arguments here. The perpetually positive side argues that, after much contemplation, Ramadhan practitioners are awash with acute awareness of pain and suffering around them that they’d rush to give and donate, more than they’d usually be inclined to.
The other side wonders if the sudden philanthropy rises from the fact that religious edicts dictate that any good deeds performed during Ramadhan will gain multiple rewards on one’s afterlife.
Since I’m also no mind-reader and not keen on playing God, feel free to ponder on those arguments and decide for yourself.
As a former corporate warrior, I’ll take you instead to play around with efficiency and effectiveness.
Now, let me ask you, how do your bills arrive? With a few variations of quarterly, bimonthly, or weekly, most of you get your bills, from utilities to credit card charges to loan repayments, on a monthly basis. Most of us do grocery shopping on a weekly basis. Many of us do lunch outside on almost a daily basis. And that’s what life is; a continuous, moment-to-moment process. Life goes on, literally, every single second. And guess what, your expenses occur alongside, also continuously. Expenses don’t occur once in a holy month of the year.
Most orphanages, shelters, halfway homes and nurseries in Indonesia receive abundant, overflowing donations and alms during Ramadhan/Idul Fitri, Idul Adha and year-end/Christmastime. Orphanages are inundated with fast-breaking invitations during Ramadhan, the kids are stuffed with McDonalds’s or fancy hotel buffets laden with meals they barely know, showered with new attires, mostly of Islamic fashion, before sent home toting bagful of goodies. Raw cuts of beef and lamb are delivered during that one Idul Adha day, surpassing the amount they’ll normally consume in half a month. Similar overabundance around Christmastime. And so on and so forth.
Yet when the extravaganza has passed and the enlightenment has dissipated, the bills keep coming. Groceries still have to be purchased. Orphans still have to go to school and buy books, just as grannies still need warm blankets and regularly-salaried nurses to help them function in senior citizen nurseries. The whole eleven months beyond Ramadhan.
So here’s my proposal. Instead of your usual lump-sum holiday donation, divide them into 12, and send it monthly. You may think it’s small to the point of embarrassing, but if there’s anything I can teach you on good corporate planning, is the crucial factor of regularity. Amid all variables, you need a constant to make your calculation. That monthly sum, once the caretakers know will steadily come, will be accounted towards their operational budget. For all you know, that small sum will cover the month’s diapers, pencils, socks, or a portion of electricity bills.
Sure, you can donate two goats by Idul Adha. Yet, beyond religious dogma, think of what the same amount is worth once converted into weekly or monthly groceries. From my own experience I can tell you that for Rp 500,000, the same amount a middle-class Jakartan family can nonchalantly spend in one weekend at nearby mall, you can get enough eggs and milk to feed 50 orphans in a week. As juicy as mutton skewers taste for a day, it’s healthier for kids to consume eggs and milk everyday.
The ones who really know what’s needed are the caretakers. Call them and humbly ask. You’d be surprised to hear that instead of yet another pair of Muslim attire, things they may already be receiving from others this month, the kids need new mattresses or bed-sheets to replace the tattered ones. Or the roof needs repair so it won’t leak on top of kids’ bookshelves every time it rains. Or there’s this bright girl who can’t continue into high-school because the orphanage can’t afford the tuition. Or the need for a bigger fridge to accommodate the Idul Adha meat donations that otherwise would have to be discarded in two days. Or that what the senile grannies really need is a constant supply of good adult diapers.
Think about it. The extra mile, for your good intentions to serve a greater good for miles. Happy Ramadhan, everyone.