You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you
— John Bunyan
The idea that helping others makes our lives richer and deeper has been around for thousands of years. Aristotle believed that we could achieve lasting happiness and fulfillment “by loving rather than in being loved.”
Philanthropists the world over are demonstrating through their own personal actions that there is great economic, spiritual and social wisdom in exchanging their fortunes for something far more valuable — the chance to improve the quality of life for countless others.
Anonymous benevolence directed to causes that, unlike people, can give nothing in return, is the highest form of altruism. It is seen as the most noble of human impulses. No wonder most religions promote it. Charity, selflessness, sacrifice, mercy — the act of giving is nothing short of a spiritual renewal.
Having pots of money doesn’t necessarily make you happy. But giving it — even if you’re not rich — is likely to make you feel happier. More and more people are developing this vision — it generates the most powerful benevolent human impulses. They are realising that their life belongs to the whole community and giving takes them out of themselves and allows them to expand beyond earthly bounds. Working for others gives us inner strength. Making them feel more valued elevates both us and them morally and spiritually.
As Winston Churchill emphasized, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
Lao Tzu summed it more pithily: “The wise man does not lay up his own treasures. The more he gives to others, the more he has for his own.”
The real magic of giving goes even deeper than that momentary sublimation. As Simone de Beauvoir emphasizes: “That’s what I consider true generosity: You give your all and yet you always feel as if it costs you nothing.” More important is that giving should not be with an eye on the returns. It not only nullifies our act but also burdens the receiver. Kahlil Gibran emphasizes that we should give with our full emotional being. . He writes in The Prophet: “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”
Remember, half a seed cannot germinate. After planting your seeds, you should expect absolutely nothing in return. It is nobler to follow the Biblical injunction. “Let not thy right hand know what thy left hand doeth”.
But acts of giving produce positive vibes which wash off the stains of toxic emotions. The great American President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave us a wonderful mantra way back in 1937. It is more relevant today than ever before: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have too much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.’’ Kahlil Gibran suggests something still better: “Give while the season of giving is here so that your coffer is not empty when you die.”