The practice of sharing your resources with the less fortunate exists in all major religious traditions. I believe this is to ensure we don’t grow too enamored with our achievements and resources and ignore those whose circumstances are not quite as favorable. The practice of sharing keeps the flow of money going rather than keeping it stuck by hoarding it – under the mistaken belief that you don’t have enough.
I belong to a group of professionals interested in promoting charitable giving. Many are development directors who work for non-profits and develop relationships with current and potential donors to help keep the non-profit financially viable so they can do the work their mission statement says they do. They typically go after the big nut; Mrs. GotRocks as a friend calls her. Meaning, they go after the largest possible donations. This makes sense given their limited financial resources to reach out to donors. And yet, there are news stories seemingly all the time about non-profits receiving enormous donations from the estates of people who lived very humble and meager lives.
My comment at a meeting last year, at the risk of sounding very self-righteous, was “We’re all talking about receiving money from people’s excess; but charity, at it’s core, is partially a sacrifice to help further a cause someone believes in.” Everyone has a place at this table, and I think it’d do more people good if they became engaged in the efforts of a non-profit with “time, talent and tithe” (10 percent) as the saying goes.
Perhaps that’s why, even before the Great Recession, our national rates of depression and anxiety were the highest recorded; people don’t feel engaged in their own community and in causes that are larger than themselves and their day-to-day problems. It’s easy to focus on daily frustrations and disappointments when you’re not actively participating in something else that brings your life meaning and joy, to feel as if you are making some kind of difference in the world.
In my last post about financial rites of passage, I wrote about how Buffalo, one of the nation’s poorest cities, has one of the highest per capita charitable giving rates in the country. To be fair, there are some seriously posh areas of Buffalo, but there have been stories about bag ladies winning the lottery and giving all of the proceeds to their church or a local hospital. And there are people every day doing what they can to make the world just a bit better, whether that be volunteering at a soup kitchen, giving to their church, sponsoring a child in another country, or serving on a non-profit’s board of directors. These people are happy, and isn’t that what we all want to be?
So GIVE! Not ’til it hurts, but ’til it feels good!