You don’t have to be rich to give

A timely tribute to Thomas Cannon, who died last year at age 79. The longtime resident of Richmond, Va., was no titan of industry, but for many he embodied the spirit of giving more than any megabillionaire could.

Although he was a postal worker who seldom earned as much as $30,000 a year, Cannon routinely gave away much of what he earned, usually in increments of $1,000. His generosity was celebrated in such national forums as Ebony Magazine and on the Oprah Winfrey and "Nightline" TV shows.

Cannon made his first donation in 1972, when he was 47. He had given away an estimated $150,000 by the time he died.

His methods must have required some extraordinary penny-pinching, but he didn't see it that way. He once explained to a reporter at the Richmond Times-Dispatch exactly how he did it: "People say, 'How can you afford it?' Well, how can people afford new cars and boats? Instead of those, we deliberately kept our standard of living down below our means. I get money from the same place people get money for those other things."

According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, blacks donate 25 percent more of their discretionary income than whites. On average, Black Enterprise magazine notes, black households give $1,614 to their favorite causes. That figure doesn't take into account tithing -- contributing 10 percent of household income -- to churches, a widespread practice among black families.

[Excerpt of article by Jabari Asim, The Washington Post]

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