Meridian Star

January 13, 2013

Giving is great — don't over-think it

By Steve Gillespie / Managing Editor
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN — Recently a woman in the drive-thru line at a local fast-food restaurant was surprised to learn her lunch had been paid for when she pulled up to the check out window.

    She was told the person in the car in front of her bought her lunch.

    Katherine, who didn't want to give me her full name when she called to tell me about this, is the woman who received the unexpected gift on Dec. 20, at Wendy's on North Hills Street.

    She said: "It was very special. I wasn't in the best of moods. I want that person to know I will pay it forward soon."

    The gift of giving is powerful for both the giver and the recipient, and it feels good to both year-round, not just at Christmastime. It's good to hear about it, too.

    The whole state of Mississippi is a generous one. Based on a report done in August by The Chronicle of Philanthropy (using 2008 tax returns) Mississippi ranks third in the nation based on the percentage of income its residents give to others.

    Utah ranked first in the nation (10.6 percent), followed by Washington D.C. (7.7 percent), then Mississippi (7.2 percent). Alabama (7.1 percent) ranked fourth, Tennessee (6.6 percent) was fifth, Idaho and South Carolina (6.4 percent) tied for sixth place, followed by Arkansas (6.3 percent), Georgia (6.2 percent), North Carolina (5.9 percent) and Maryland (5.7 percent).

    A news story done by ABC, explained that the report shows a link between conservative-leaning, religious states — or red states — which tend to give more. All of those places I just listed, except for D.C. and Maryland, went to Republican candidate Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election.

    What the ABC news article didn't say is that the states with the largest total of contributions were mostly blue states: 1.) California ($17.2 billion); 2.) New York ($11.3 billion); 3.) Texas ($10.7 billion); 4.) Florida ($7.4 billion) 5.) Illinois ($6 billion); 6.) Georgia ($4.8 billion); 7.) Pennsylvania ($4.7 billion); 8.) New Jersey ($4.5 billion); 9.) North Carolina ($4.3 billion); and 10.) Virginia ($4.2 billion). All of those places, except for Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina, went to President Barack Obama in last year's election.

    An interactive tool is available at the website, that shows more localized giving trends in the report "How America Gives." For example, you will find that people in Meridian gave $18.9 million to charitable or philanthropic causes based on the report. Total contributions throughout all of Lauderdale County was $35.1 million. State-wide contributions totaled $1.1 billion. That puts Mississippi at a ranking of 32 out of the 50 states and D.C. in total contributions.

    So, what this report shows me is that people who live in blue states make a lot more money than people who live in red states. I wish God and politics had been left out of the analysis and news reporting on this, however. Those aren't things we report on our income tax returns (not yet anyway). And tax returns aren't going to reflect the giving done at the drive-thru window at Wendy's.

    Most of the people I know — Democrats, Republicans, religious or not — are kind, generous, thoughtful people. They're Americans. And, if you believe in God, you believe God is everywhere.

    Steve Gillespie is managing editor of The Meridian Star. E-mail him at