With another year coming to a close and the holiday season fast approaching, I believe many of us find ourselves coming to reflect on the year that was, and are made more aware of the year that could be with our contributions to various organizations that rely on our support, especially during this time of year. But with greater regularity, It often appears that the act itself and its’ known or anticipated impact is not reward enough for many “givers”, and a public proclamation of magnanimity seems the order of the day.
I recall a particular Thanksgiving day parade in my home town of Detroit, Michigan. For years, the JL Hudson department stores sponsored this hallowed tradition. Being the biggest retailer in it’s particular segment and Icon of Detroit culture and commerce for years and years, most everyone knew who sponsored the parade without a lot of fanfare. But alas, as the winds of change blew once again in Detroit; corporate mergers, acquisitions, and the like found Hudson’s absorbed, and their sponsorship of the parade went with it. Low and behold, the parade tradition is kept alive through a non-profit company formed for the sole purpose of holding the parade, and maintaining a storied tradition for generations to come – with a few changes. Now, all the floats proudly sponsored by corporate donations are found emblazoned with a banner or company logo placed prominently on board. The parade merely looked like the float was just an easier way to get the company more exposure on national TV, and I believe tacitly ran counter to the spirit of the season.
I believe that in our society we have lost perspective on what the concept of giving is really all about. Giving, in its purest form, is altruistic, and the reward is the act itself. When a recipient needs to pander to an individual or entities’ ego with how much publicity and return on investment they will get for their “giving,” it doesn’t quite seem like giving. It seems more like advertising.
I believe philanthropy on a large scale is reserved for the financially rich. But the rich in spirit and character often quietly pass unacknowledged, almost unnoticed. I believe their influences, gentle though they may be, grow and spread like wildflowers in springtime. When it comes to sharing their resources, the people who seem to have the least to give are almost always proportionally the most generous, and become a joy to observe. Financial means may be an associative benefit to these efforts, but the desire to give their time and efforts to others is the investment that will multiply far beyond the measure of money and through generations. I believe these companies and individuals have placed their own monument to their lives long before they die. I am referring to the contributions of time and attention they impart to others – their good will, generosity, kindness, time and attention, and their good deeds — or lack of them.
People and institutions trying to draw attention to their own financial contributions probably do not have the interest of helping their professed causes first, but rather furthering what they perceive as their own stature and image of magnanimity — even posthumously. I believe a true giver is self-effacing and would not want funds that could go to their causes to be spent on promoting their deeds and contributions.
I believe my greatest experiences with giving are ones that I keep between the recipient and myself. To me, that interaction is the sacred, often spiritual part of giving. I may even be involved in other efforts that impact more people, but are uniquely anonymous, yet the people helped probably have no idea of the many people and cumulative efforts that have gone to making the end result possible.
I believe giving needs to contain humility, or it isn’t really giving.
This I believe.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.