A Primal Thought: A Drop in the Bucket

A few years ago, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University devised a study to discover how and why people respond to the needs of others.

Participants were given five one-dollar bills for completing a random survey on technology products, but that survey was simply to ensure that all the participants had cash on hand to consider donating to charity. After completing the survey, participants were given an envelope with a charity request letter from Save the Children. The researchers tested two versions of the request letter. The first version featured statistics about the magnitude of the problems facing children in Africa. The other letter shared the needs of one seven-year-old girl named Rokia. On average, the participants who read the statistical letter contributed $1.14. The people who read about Rokia gave $2.38, or more than twice as much.

The smaller donations in response to the statistical letter were the result of something psychologists call the drop-in-the-bucket effect. If we feel overwhelmed by the scale fo the problem, we often do little about it. Statistics about massive human suffering in African can actually make people less charitable. the reason? Researchers theorized that focusing on statistics short-circuits a compassionate response by shifting people into an analytical frame of mind. And when people think analytically, it can hinder their ability to act compassionately.

Sometimes the head gets in the way of the heart. Logical objections get in the way of compassionate actions. It's not my responsibility. I'm not ready. I can't make much of a difference anyway. I'm certainly not suggesting that you shouldn't count the cost. You should. But if God is speaking to your heart, don't let your mind get in the way of what God wants you to do. Sometimes loving God with all of your heart simply means listening to your heart instead of your head.