A unique feature of our social bond is that most of those who give will probably never meet those whom they give to.
You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you
— John Bunyan
The idea that helping others makes our lives richer and deeper has been around for thousands of years. Aristotle believed that we could achieve lasting happiness and fulfillment “by loving rather than in being loved.” Philanthropists the world over are demonstrating through their own personal actions that there is great economic, spiritual and social wisdom in exchanging their fortunes for something far more valuable — the chance to improve the quality of life for countless others.
Anonymous benevolence is now being regarded the noblest form of philanthropy. No wonder most religions promote it — charity, selflessness, sacrifice, mercy — the act of giving is nothing short of a calling to elevate humanity. It’s never too early or too little to start giving. One can take baby steps, find a cause that one is passionate about and set out on the philanthropic journey right now.
Having pots of money doesn’t necessarily make you happy. But giving it — even if you’re not rich — is likely to make you feel wealthier, and also happier. More and more people are developing this vision. Many of the wealth creators are now outpacing their peers in benevolence as against the earlier culture of competing with each other for bigger homes, more ostentatious weddings, luxury cars, more expensive clothes, and so on. They are realising that their life belongs to the whole community and giving takes them out of themselves and allows them to expand beyond earthly bounds.
Deeply embedded in the concept of philanthropy are the notions of welfare, altruism and justice, which can be seen as a way of harnessing human potential to resolve insurmountable challenges to human society. It is God’s way of ensuring the re-distribution of the wealth He has placed it in our possession. It has the ability to balance disparities, between people and possessions. As every single person has equal access to God in all moments, there should be no barrier preventing individual assets that belong to God from flowing between people. Thus charity is not just an instrument of economic justice; it also helps in breaking social barriers. The rich experience a new affinity for the poor.
A unique feature of our social bond is that most of those who give will probably never meet those whom they give to. The motivation isn’t because of kinship rooted in socially constructed value, shared culture or common heritage. Caring beyond our own walls is not just a matter of altruism; it is enlightened self-interest. Service rendered unsolicited is the most fulfilling and elevating.
Every giver possesses two disconnected commodities — wealth and convictions. Alone, they have no spiritual value. But the alchemy of these virtues can empower the wealthy to transmute the dross of their wealth into the gold of a happy human community. Abraham Lincoln puts it more pithily: “To ease another’s heartache is to forget one’s own”. Whatever pushes us to help others — to get close to people in need, in pain, or to spread joy through our own energy, time, sweat and courage — it is something that deeply touches and nourishes our soul.
We are all governed by layers of disparate emotions and motivations. Love is not always as pure as people like to think. It is complicated by neediness and insecurity and constantly threatens our life with grief. But acts of giving produce positive vibes which wash off the stains of toxic emotions.