The Shift of Charity

Written By Randy Evans

I’d like to continue the conversation from last month about charity and the intentions we have behind it. I find the philosophical way of looking at all this enlightening of why we do what we do. Am I suppose to feel good about doing charity? What if I don’t feel good about doing it? Should there be any distinction between the two?

Where I come from, $1,000 is a lot of money. If I donate this amount to Charity A, that’s a huge sacrifice for me. I know that Charity A is going to use that money to help someone much less fortunate than myself. I feel good that I’m able to make such a large donation to those in need. Now what if a billionaire donates $1,000 to Charity A as well, without the feel-good thoughts about it? It’s not exactly a sacrifice: it would be the equivalent of me throwing coins into a fountain. In this case, which donor did the best charity here? Was it me with my warm feelings and sacrifice or the billionaire who didn’t give it another thought? Believe it or not, I would say the billionaire did better charity than me.

The billionaire’s donation was just that: a gift. It wasn’t a sacrificial one, but $1,000 is $1,000. The key is they got nothing out of it. They didn’t get a gift in return, their name on a plaque for all to see, or even the warm fuzzy feelings we get after doing something we consider above and beyond good.

If we are donating to a cause in order to feel good about ourselves, it becomes a transaction. I give you this, you give me that. In my case, I gave $1,000 and in return I patted myself on the back for a job well done. Look what I did, I can brag to my friends or write it off on my taxes. Although it’s not tangible, I still received something in the end. As for the billionaire it was a one way street: I give you this, end of story. They didn’t look for a reward – or even the good feelings – no transaction took place.

And so, in this transaction of charity that is so commonplace, is it fair to use those experiencing poverty as currency? Am I truly practicing charity or am I just using those much less fortunate than myself to bolster my position or show my advantage in life? Is it fair to perpetuate the poverty-stricken by keeping the give/take cycle in motion? A real life example of someone who truly practiced charity was Mother Theresa. While her charity work did make her famous, she didn’t use that fame to her advantage in caring for the sick of Calcutta. She often went without basic needs if someone under her care had need of them. She gave freely, never expecting to be repaid, or to be elevated to the next level on the ladder of success. Instead, she humbly put her shoulder into the plough, helping everyone who entered into her sphere of influence.

I want to emulate what Mother Theresa did: charity was her lifestyle. She lived it. She did charity for the sake of taking care of others, not because it gave her warm happy feelings or because it was Christmastime. Unlike the $1,000 donation from myself and the billionaire, charity to her was not a fleeting moment of giving. Charity did not have a season or a line on her tax form – it was her everyday life.

Walking Tall Wilmington offers a way to experience charity the way it was meant to be: living it everyday with others. Yes, the warm fuzzy feelings sometimes happen, but as I’ve been living this way for a while now, it’s not as common. At the end of the day, they don’t matter. (Do you ever feel exhilarated by serving your family dinner on Tuesday night? Nope, it’s just what you do – same here at Walking Tall Wilmington).  My first goal is to meet the basic needs of those experiencing poverty. My second goal is to develop interpersonal relationships with each individual. The lifestyle I am cultivating for myself is not always easy: it can be draining emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. I feel called by the Lord to serve this population and remove the stigma society has placed on their plight. I want to not only create a space of empathy, but to tear down barriers and help those heal from the scars inflicted upon them. To watch someone rise out of poverty and have self worth is such a precious experience.

If you give to a worthy cause this Christmas season, I encourage you to do so without any strings attached – remember, it’s not about you. More than that, I would love for you to join me in living a life of charity by volunteering with Walking Tall Wilmington. Together we can make a difference in the lives of those experiencing poverty.

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