At the time I’m writing this, Americans are furious about the recent Wall Street bailout. At a time when many are economically pinched, they are outraged that politicians would consider giving the very companies that created the financial mess a “gift” of such epic proportions.

Since we are now at year-end, with the crisis hopefully in check, let’s reflect on this a bit. The natural tendency when we read about bailouts is to get angry. Why did Wall Street’s greed get so out of hand? Why didn’t government do something to rein it in? What will the economic impact be on our long-term finances and on the well being of generations to come?

It’s perfectly natural to get angry as we ponder these questions. But anger is pointless. It feels good for a while. But if it lasts too long, it only brings your mood down and saps your energy. Instead, let’s just channel that negative energy into something positive: bailing out Main Street as well as Wall Street. How? By donating your time, money and energy to a local charity.

Here’s why rescuing your community is a great antidote these days:

  • It counteracts the negativity spawned by Wall Street welfare. It just feels a lot better to help out a good local cause than to be mad at Wall Street financiers and Washington politicians.
  • It provides resources at a time when charities need help. With credit tightening and the economy presumably slowing down, there’s no better time to render assistance than now.
  • It sets a good example for friends and colleagues. Giving of yourself to worthwhile causes is contagious. When other people see that you have a “bailout” going, they will emulate you.
  • It demonstrates to your clients that you care. You want them to see not only your hard, analytical side, but also your soft, caring side. Together, soft and hard elements make for a well-rounded and appealing person. Clients like such people.

So as we head into year-end, think about the best way to structure your local “bailout” effort. Here’s how to get started:

  • Research various community groups and charities. Your local community center and the CharityWatch.org web site are great places to start.
  • Contact the leadership of several groups and request a meeting. Ask about program areas that need the most support. Think about how much time, money or in-kind contributions you’re in a position to contribute.
  • Get involved with one group that excites you. Start small and see how things go. Bailouts begin at home, you will find.