By Samantha McKenzie
“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill
There’s nothing more noble than giving to those in need. Every major religion, educational institute and non-profit organization would agree, that their work grows out of the spirit of a charitable person. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a helpful hand, you’ll also bear witness that giving is a necessary component to living and that charity is best when it comes from the heart.
Giving is a part of human nature and it shows up in many different forms. We often refer to charity when we think of monetary gifts or providing financial assistance. When we contribute our time to a cause or donate some type of material object, we are participating in charity as well. It all adds up to the same amount.
We admire philanthropists and notable people because their charitable gestures usually make the headline news. I marvel at generous people like Oprah Winfrey or Ellen DeGeneres, when they give super neat gifts to guests on their shows or the people seated in their audiences. I know for a fact that I’m overly excited when I see stories online about celebrity donations – like when the LeBron James Foundation donated $41 million to send students to college and when Colin Kaepernick gave $50,000 to Meals on Wheels and pledged to give $1 million to various organizations. Then there’s the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which has given away $28 billion to charities, $8 billion of which went to improving global health.
I’m equally excited when I hear about regular people, people like you and me, who volunteer in their community or a local school. I work in Student Affairs at a university and I know for a fact that many of my colleagues have clothed, fed and paid for books and expenses, just to see some of these young people make it to the next semester.
I have always been in love with giving. I grew up in a family of people who gave willingly to others. I was surrounded by church members and neighbors who practiced it on a regular basis. No one moaned about helping. In fact, we responded to a need like we were called to a mission. My cup of joy always felt like it was running over. The act of helping seeped itself all the way down into my bones and became a permanent resident in my life. I remember the clothing drives and the car washes, the bake sales and the community extravaganzas – all the small ways we worked collectively to help raise money for someone in need.
Through the years, I’ve met countless families who lost everything in a fire or whose child was suffering with a terminal illness. I have met students who just needed a little extra tutoring after school or a warm plate of food and maybe a long hug. Their stories drove us into action, but it was the feeling of goodness that lingered on behind. It was on those days that I felt closest to humanity. It was on those days I felt acutely a part of the universe. It was on those days I felt the true and living God.
Giving from the heart is not about size or quantity. It is a selfless act that requires you to sacrifice something for the sake of another. It is a blessing to you, just as much as it is a blessing for others.
If you have the ability to write a big check that can help a great cause, then do so. If you have free time on your hand, try providing a service in your local community. If you have a special talent, then share it with those who can’t afford it. Give of your time, your treasures and your talents to those who need it the most.
My daughter’s friend visited the house on Sunday. He was a young man she went to high school with. After a brief conversation, I asked him about his intentions on going to college (a routine conversation I have with people of all ages). He stuttered for a little bit. (My daughter later reminded me that I asked him the same question a few years back). After a bit of hesitancy, he told me that he had some things to work out but he still wanted to go. I believed him, although I knew he had a few obstacles to overcome. I told him I would pay for his SAT test and application fee when he was ready. I’ll even take him on a college tour. There were no cameras around. I wasn’t required to write a hefty check. I gave what I had and I gave it from the bottom of my heart.
Give your heart to something, as often as you can.
“There’s nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer.” Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, from Pearl Harbor movie