My challenge to those individuals is to clarify what are the expectations verses the implications of giving back to a community to which one is identified. Some community ties are stronger than others. Does this mean I should give proportionately to each community depending on the strength of my connections to each? No, not at all. Am I required to give something to my “identified community” first before giving to another that I have an affinity for? No, again.
The idea is to give back, of free will. An example I will give that illustrates these differences are churches. Some churches require its confirmed members to tithe to the church each year. It is “recommended” at a level of ten percent of your income. This expectation serves to assist the church in paying bills, maintaining facilities and spreading the word. But is this giving of free will or from the expectation or obligation of giving?
I have learned that the best giving is done of free will without any expectation of return, reward or necessarily acknowledgment. I have heard people express dismay that their efforts were not acknowledged or rewarded for raising funds for this charity or that charity. My question is always, “And you giving expecting something in return?” This appears to be giving with strings attached.
I hear about mega-millions donations to universities but that always seem to come along with a “and a building or chairmanship will be named after the donor.” I guess some people need the attention, acknowledgment or it helps support their belief that they are somebody. News flash! You are already somebody. Good deeds DO make you feel good. It is always nice when one is acknowledged but giving to get acknowledgment is giving with strings attached. When we truly give, we do so without any expectation of anything in return.
People ask me how I give back. I do this in many ways, some that get acknowledged and others that go unnoticed but all but those receiving the gift. I aim to give back at least the ten percent of my income every year. I often give back more then that but who’s counting. I may drop a few coins in a hat of the person on the street, or offer to buy them a meal. I volunteer my services for an entire week every year to a charity event that welcomes my involvement and I even raise money to pay for my way. I provide limited fee reductions to patients that want to use my services but cannot otherwise afford to pay full fee. I do this as I deem suitable. I will buy a box of girl guide (scout) cookies - usually 5-10 boxes - though I don’t eat them all.
Do I give back to my primary community? It depends on how you define that. By my definition (again that uniqueness in identifying it for myself) yes. Do I give to those outside my community? Yes.
To me, giving of my time, services, money, expertise are gifts that are and were given to me. We each have these unique gifts. Charity does not always involve money. Often it involves time; time for others, to mentor, to serve.
In this time of fear and economic uncertainty, there are many people who can benefit from my expertise, time and commitment. There are also many who would welcome yours. My challenge is for you, with your talents and expertise, to shift focus. Shift the focus from you to someone less fortunate. You may have a life threatening illness, a (now) chronically managed illness (HIV/AIDS), you may be semi or fully retired. But I urge you to give back, even an hour a month, better yet an hour a week.
If you need a suggestion of where to volunteer your time let me know. Better yet Google “volunteer opportunities” in your area. Get out, give back and reap the rewards of service without expectations. As we take care of others we nourish ourselves.