Why I give

This coming Tuesday, November 30th marks the worldwide celebration of generosity. It’s called “Giving Tuesday” – an opportunity for people around the world to come together through generosity in all its forms by sharing acts of kindness and giving their voice, time, money, goods, and advocacy to support communities and causes.

What a marvelous idea to designate a day especially to the cause of giving. To give is the true essence of hospitality. So, I wanted to share a little about why and how I give.

Giving is liberation

In the introduction to my book, Seva: The Art of Hospitality, I shared how the concept of “seva” (selfish service) transcends the transactional nature of service. That true hospitality is to  be shared without expectation of receiving something in return. I think the same is true when we give to those who are in need.

Whether you call it “philanthropy” or “altruism”, the giving of our money, time, skills, voice or other resources is not an “exchange”, with some expectation of a “payoff”. Rather, I see giving as an offering, or release, from what I have been given.

Giving is a liberation of what we have received to those who are in need for the sole reason of blessing others. And in the process of giving, we find our own sense of liberation. That those “things” (possessions, resources, abilities, time) don’t possess us.

I am certainly not the first to suggest that when you give, you shall receive. But the point is that we don’t give merely to receive. We may never see the impact of our philanthropic efforts, but through the act of giving, we recognize how much we are blessed.

feeding-children-at-malawi-childrens-mission
Feeding orphans at Malawi Children's Mission. (Photo by Molly Choma)
How I Give

Most are willing to give to causes that reflect their values. This is a good starting point. But as much as I am able, I like to learn more about the beneficiaries and the people who are acting as “stewards” of my gift. ‘Is my gift going to good use? Is it being used wisely?’

The difficulty is that we don’t always have the chance to see the end results of our giving.

So, as much as possible, I like to become hands-on. The difference between where I might send a one-off donation and where I choose to support a charity over the long-term is all about how well I know the cause or organization.

The most important way to go about supporting a cause is by being deliberate and planful. How much do I know about a particular charity? Who are the people behind it? What are the real needs being met? Will I receive tangible evidence of the impact? There is a learning process to the art of giving.

Get Up Close and Personal

In 2007 we were fortunate enough to participate in establishing a charity in Malawi, Africa, whose mission is to support orphaned and vulnerable children. Over the years we have been able to see incredible results in the 200+ children who receive food, education and medical assistance. This charity is about creating an opportunity in which underprivileged children can thrive.

kiran-with-orphans-at-malawi-childrens-mission

Malawi Children’s Mission (MCM) all came about through the generosity of supporters who made a commitment to get behind this cause. And by a team of dedicated local staff who do the hard work of helping these children. I am pleased to say that my daughter and her husband are brilliantly leading this effort. But I choose to support MCM because they are devoted to seeing through this mission over the long haul.

I had several opportunities to visit MCM and to see, first-hand, the day-to-day struggles Malawi’s orphans face. As heart breaking as it can be to hear the stories of hardship, I always went away with a smile and a determination to continue helping.

Ultimately serving a cause or charitable organization is about people. The closer we can get to the needs being met, and the people receiving them, the more confident we will be in giving.

Success Stories

Make an effort to find out how your cause or charity measures “success”. Take the story of Angellina, for example.

angellina-at-malawi-childrens-mission
Angellina - An MCM success story.

Without MCM, Angellina’s life would be very different than it is today. She likely would have been forced into an early marriage and would not have received an education. She watched this scenario play out in her own mother’s life.  So, she made it her personal mission to work hard in school in order to change her life path.   

During secondary school, Angellina would come by MCM to pick up her cousins. She opened up to the staff about her goals and the vision of her life.  “School is very important.  Basically school means having a better future.  With school, I’ll be able to support myself, help my relatives, as well as the community. But also, being a leader, I’ll make sure to help the little ones who are still schooling by being a role model to them. I will be motivating them, giving them words of encouragement so that they always work hard and become successful in the future”. 

It was clear that Angellina had the aptitude and desire to succeed. She just needed the opportunity.  She joined MCM during secondary school.  With MCM’s staff to encourage her and donors to provide financial resources, Angellina was able to successfully pursue her academic dreams. She is in her final year of university, where she is completing her degree in Agriculture.

This is only one of many, many success stories.

Take A Step

It’s always a good time to help create success stories in the lives of others. Whether you participate in Giving Tuesday or choose your own causes, I would encourage everyone who reads this to consider how you will give during this holiday season. Think about where you can have the most impact, and what causes you choose to get behind.

Your contribution will make a difference. And in the process you will find that giving back brings a freedom that is hard to replicate. 

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