And so it happened that I was present at a discourse which had the concept of charity as its centrepiece.
There were many interesting viewpoints from everyone involved and I spent most of my time listening, making mental notes, comparing, contrasting and looking at all perspectives on the concept which is charity.
It happened that soon afterward, in a conversation with a friend who also happened to be there. I picked up a pearl of wisdom which jumped out at me after that friend said something along the lines of
“If you really want to help people and be really charitable about it, then leave your phone at home.”
I’ll drop the pearl of wisdom at the end of this piece, so bear with me.
We already know that we live in a day and age where social media validation has become a strong motivational force behind almost every action human beings take. Due to that fact, my friend’s statement above stands valid, however to a certain extent.
There are situations in which a foundation or a corporation which exercises its Corporate Social Responsibility in doing charitable work, may wish to draw the attention of the general public to the plight of a cross section of people. Some individuals, in creating memories, wish to document the wonderful experience they may have had with these individuals in the form of dances, laughter, or a shared social experience. Surely there is nothing wrong with documenting such. However, I believe that where an individual or a group places external validation over and above the main aim of the charitable exercise which is to bring joy and succor to people in need, and let them know they are not alone.
Another issue worth raising is the monolithic view that charity only has to do with helping the poorest of the poor; the have nots of the have nots; and in trying to help these people.
We always forget to help our friends, family, colleagues and other people of the same societal class who may need our help. That is inaccurate as much as it is misguided.
It is not okay to abandon your friends but rush off to save the world. It makes no sense. Charity they say, begins at home.
Yet another misconception about charity involves giving material gifts. It is not true.
The Society of Saint Vincent the Paul, a non-denominational charity group which has its roots in the Catholic Church, emphasizes the use of what they term their “3 Ts” to help the poor and needy which are: Time, Talent and Treasure. Giving attention, or sparing Time to talk with and listen to people who are sad and depressed amongst us is an unquantifiable act of charity. Making them happy or giving them momentary respite using our God-given Talents is also wonderful, and of course giving to them from the Treasures in our pocket is also welcome, but none out of the 3 Ts is greater than the other in my estimation. None should be looked down on, and none should be exalted above the other.
Finally, it should be said that it is necessary to see ourselves in our fellow human beings. In truth it is harder than it sounds, but it is infinitely achievable. They are human beings; imperfect, fallible, vulnerable, scared, lonely, broken, lost, angry, sad, capable of great good and evil, but human. Identify that humanity in everyone and never losing sight of it is very important. Endeavour to put yourself in the shoes of others before taking any action that affects them in any way. Let it be your guiding light and you will never put a foot wrong, but attract goodness and positivity to yourself.
I’ll leave you with this: The Greatest Act of Charity is recognizing the common strand of humanity that binds mankind together in every face you see.