My grandfather is a Holocaust survivor. When I was eighteen, he brought my family to Poland and walked us through his childhood history. In incredible detail, he narrated the scenes of his youth: the aroma of bagels wafting from the corner bakery; the warm glow of candles filling the living room on Friday nights; the Nazi guards barking “Schnell!” as they herded Jews into cattle cars; the mad flight from the death march, starving, freezing, hunted. He described his mother, who meticulously prepared the house for Sabbath. His father, who dreamed of sending his son to Europe’s greatest yeshiva. Everyone he knew was killed. As we stood in the heart of the Auschwitz memorial, a death camp stretching as far as they eye can see, my grandfather implored us with grieving urgency. Honor their memories. Build a better world.
There are so many tragedies that prevent us from realizing the world my grandfather dreams of. More than 20,000 children will die today from preventable causes such as malaria and diarrhea, a silent, ongoing disaster that will never make headlines but merits alarm as great as any crisis we’ve seen. It often feels like this is just one of a paralyzing array of global problems we are powerless to change.
Except that’s nonsense. You, the moment after you read this email, will change it. To do so, we need to move past the urge to post angrily on Facebook and stop there, or to give to the charity that makes us feel good rather than the one that truly solves a problem for someone in great need. We need to act, and we need to act smartly.
A movement called Effective Altruism has been studying exactly how to do the most good in the world. They’ve found that anti-malaria bednets are among the most powerful tools; just a few thousand dollars spent distributing bednets will save a life (follow GiveWell.org for amazing charity research). We also need to stand against hatred and change the systems that perpetuate poverty and conflict – but we can take a tremendous first step by eliminating the easily preventable diseases that rob so many families of their loved ones, day after day.
Imagine if, one day, you walked by a burning building and heard someone crying for help inside. Imagine dashing in and lifting them out of the rubble to safety. That would be an incredible experience – maybe the best day of your life.
You don’t need to walk by a burning building to save a life. You can do it right now. If every person reading this email donates $10 to Against Malaria Foundation (againstmalaria.com/donate.aspx), we could save 60 lives. If you donate, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Donated: [amount]” and I’ll let you know how many families we helped, together.
In 1943, the world watched silently as my family burned. In 2016, let’s not be silent. My grandfather is still around, and I’ll let him know how much we gave today. I know you’ll make him proud.
P.S. You won't have much money to give away if you don't have good personal finance habits! The younger you are, the more important it is to learn the basic facts about credit scores, investing, paying taxes, and buying insurance. My friend created a free app called DollarsEd to teach you everything you need to know, from scratch. Nothing else like it exists: it's fun, entertaining, and informative. It won't be free forever, so use it while you can at DollarsEd.com!