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That Will Be $7,000, Doctor . . .


As usual, while they get little credit for it, I believe that most of America's doctors are charitable. My dad was a generous man and I have every reason to believe that today's physicians are very giving too.

“Give until it hurts.”―Mother Teresa

As usual, while they get little credit for it, I believe that most of America’s doctors are charitable. My dad was a generous man and I have every reason to believe that today’s physicians are very giving too.

What got me thinking about charity was a recent report by the Chronicle of Philanthropy that takes a peek at the nation’s charitable ways. The national survey of IRS data found that the poor give better than the rich and the religious dig deeper than the non-religious. The 3 top states for giving were Utah, Mississippi, and Alabama. The least charitable state was New Hampshire followed by Maine and Vermont.

The national average is about 3% of annual income per year in donations. For the average primary care doc that’s about $7,000 in annual assistance; for a specialist it’s nearly $12,000.

And if you know anything about the goodness of medical profession, and my dad was certainly in this group, then you understand that doctors give so, so much more. I think my dad could have put all of his 8 children through college (Twice!) with just the money he forgave in free medical care over the years. This no charge for health treatment assortment included friends and relatives too numerous to mention, along with legions of down-on-their-luck and working-stiff-guy types. Plus, when he retired he left behind hundreds of thousands of dollars in uncollected patient bills.

In addition to my dad’s charity, I also witnessed the behavior from my mother. I wouldn’t say that she was a mark for money-seekers (she was too smart for that), but she did give to those who could have learned more from a “no” answer. Countless checks were written for who needed a few dollars (and more). And it was charity, because mom never expected the money’s return.

A big factor in giving seems to be religion. Again my physician-dad showed the way here. Aside from the fact that dad was always a top giver at our local church, I know he helped the body too. Just recently, after a long period of time apart, my sisters and I met up with a person who played a very meaningful role in our youth.

A young orphan girl, Judy, was smart and spunky. My mother, seeking help with her then 5 children under age 5, thought her perfect for child care work when they first met in the late 1950s. The connection had come through our area Catholic Charities USA organization.

My parents opened up their home and their hearts to her and Judy was a member of our family for about a decade. My parents housed, fed, and clothed her, paid for her religious schooling, put her through nursing school, and introduced her to her husband. How can you put a number on all that? I understand the effort to calculate our giving ways, but real charity like that done by my dad and mom is something you can’t count.

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