The urgency of proximity
Why is it easier to feel compassion and take action when matters are close at hand, as compared to when it’s something happening on the other side of the world?
If you happen to walk past a pond and you see a child drowning, would you save that child’s life even if it meant ruining your expensive clothes and shoes? Of course, most people argue that they would save the child. We believe that the child’s life is worth more than the cost of the clothes.
What if there’s a child halfway around the world that could be saved by you donating that same amount of money, would you donate that money? Most of us don’t. We don’t give to charities that are saving kids halfway across the world.
Both scenarios could save the life of a child, yet we act very differently. The urgency of the situation with a child in need right in front of us causes us to take immediate action. Whereas the anonymous starving child in a country far away is much easier to ignore.
Your defense for not donating is that there are so many children in need that you cannot possibly help them all. So you end up helping no one. But sometimes you can help just one, and one is better than zero.