Twenty five years ago, I took my first trip to Europe. Three weeks in five countries starting with Holland. I flew into Amsterdam and spent a few days there exploring. I had the opportunity to visit "The Hiding Place" of Anne Frank. I had read her book, “The Diary Of A Young Girl”, when I was a young girl, and it made an impression on me. She wrote it between the ages of 13-15, before her capture and death in a Nazi concentration camp. What an eerie, humbling feeling to walk through the rooms where she lived in her final days, climbing up the “secret staircase” behind the bookcase meant to hide her and her family from the Nazi’s who wanted to destroy all Jews. I recall thinking about the moldy scent and drab walls in what had been her bedroom, and thinking about how she had spent hours smelling this odor and staring at these walls before she was ultimately captured and killed.
Four brave people helped the Frank family during their hiding period. They brought them food, and news about the war. They risked their lives every day to secure food supplies for the Frank family during a time when finding food for themselves was a challenge. Two of the four were ultimately arrested and jailed as “enemies of the regime”. Imagine the GRATITUDE Anne and her family felt toward those four. Perhaps those feelings were behind her infamous quote: “No One Has Ever Become Poor By Giving”
For those of us in the US, I suspect our initial thought when reading that quote focuses on material goods. I think Anne had a deeper meaning in mind. I suspect she was saying that by giving to others, we receive unexpected gains as well. The four who helped her were far from materially wealthy, but I imagine they received more than we’ll ever understand from their generosity during the war.
Mother Theresa is another who comes to mind when I think of the true gifts we receive from a generous heart. She gave her life to helping some of the world’s absolute poorest in Calcutta, India. She certainly didn’t gain material wealth, but I suspect her life was richer than we’ll ever imagine.
None of us will likely have the chance to help people like Anne Frank or Calcutta’s poorest, but we can give in so many other ways.
I believe it is our moral obligation as members of “The Haves” to help members of “The Have Nots”. I guess that's why I founded a non-profit to help low income families. If you don’t believe you are a member of “The Haves”, just view it through the eyes of the millions of people who don’t have a warm place to sleep at night or clean water to drink, or an education because it’s not available in their community.
Don’t agree with me? That's ok, I have 9 great reasons that will hopefully change your mind.
1. SMALL DONATIONS HAVE A BIG IMPACT - You don't have to be a millionaire to make a significant difference in improving another's quality of life. Pocket change is powerful when pooled together.
2. GIVING WORKS - Find a local organization whose mission resonates with you and help however you can. By giving your time, your talent or your money, you can help change the world.
3. POVERTY CAN BE SOLVED - Effective interventions can break the cycle of poverty. Aid provides those living in extreme poverty with necessary resources to attain a better standard of living.
4. GIVING MAKES US HAPPIER - Research shows that spending money on ourselves doesn't increase our happiness or sense of well being. However, a Harvard study showed that happier people give more and giving makes people happy. It's basically saying that happiness operates in a positive loop.
5. WE HAVE THE FINANCIAL RESOURCES TO COMBAT POVERTY - Hundreds of millions of people live on less than $1.90 a day. In the U.S., we have significant resources at our disposal. If every American citizen contributed just $3 each, we could come up with a billion dollars of aid. It's very possible to give without diverting resources from our own education or health programs and with little impact to our own quality of life.
6. GIVING HELPS CREATE THE WORLD WE WANT TO LIVE IN - There's about a 10% chance that a newborn child will be one of the 700 million living on less than $2 per day. How do you feel about that statistic? Giving helps build a world where we are ALL safer, healthier, and happier.
7. GIVING IS A QUESTION OF JUSTICE - Most of us know that working hard doesn't guarantee success in our efforts. External factors such as where we live can greatly increase or decrease our chances of success, and can determine the quality of or access we have to healthcare, education, good infrastructure, and good paying jobs.
8. IT'S HUMAN NATURE TO GIVE - We are compelled to help people falling on hard times, whether friends or strangers. We might resist giving to a panhandler fearing they will misuse money, but we all know that guilty feeling after we decide not to help someone who clearly needs it.
And for those who are more pragmatic...
9. GIVING CAN BE TAX DEDUCTIBLE
I challenge you to give in some way before the end of the year. While your motive should be to help those in need, I believe you’ll also find that your generosity will bring unexpected richness to your own life.
And remember...NO ONE HAS EVER BECOME POOR BY GIVING.