Thursday, June 24, 2010

Charity Begins at Home

excerpt from Arvind Devalia

What does the word “charity” mean to you?

No matter wherever you are in the world, there will always be something or someone whom you can support and help if you wished to make it a better world all around. One can support umpteen causes, most of which are worthy and deserving, whereas some can be rather frivolous and obscure.

There is only so much of you to give and only so many resources you can share.

There are a variety of things that drive people but a key one is this deep desire and longing to make a difference and contribute to others.

Ultimately we all want to help and make a difference, it’s a question of just how we choose to do so. Sometimes we are simply held back from helping others through lack of knowledge or even fear of stepping up.

What is your definition of charity?

Wikipedia offers a number of definitions but generally being charitable refers to providing help or relief to the poor and needy. On a broader scale it is about benevolence or generosity toward others and toward humanity.

The word “charity” is also commonly used to describe an organization that facilitates charity benefiting people in need. It also refers to the act of giving your money, time or resources to others without expecting a reciprocation or a direct return. Of course you go get the satisfaction and fulfilment of having helped someone.

Ultimately, charity is benevolence, or an act based upon a belief in the goodness and worth of other people.

There is literally someone you can help in every street, and sometimes in every nook and cranny.

There is this famous story of Mother Teresa holding and hugging a dying man in Calcutta rescued from a gutter. The man was not bitter, but happy and grateful that he was going to die with some dignity and love.

At least for the last few moments in his life, this man felt wanted and loved. And how amazing it is to be able to give such a gift.

Charity begins at home

There is this well known saying that charity begins at home – this really means that you should try to help your family and friends before you help other people.

Charity certainly begins at home – and it is key to understand and accept this. Once you accept that charity begins at home, you can then consciously look for opportunities in and around your home and not wait for one future day to pack your bags for Africa, or indeed anywhere else where a worthy charitable cause appeals to you.

Of course, charity at home is much more than giving donations and giving your unwanted clutter to others.

There is so much more we can all do for all the people around us – my friend John Sherry recently summed this up beautifully in his article about how to contribute to the world from the heart and not just the pocket.

So yes, contribute to the world from the heart and not just the pocket – and begin in your own backyard. Change the world around you first and one day you can take on the rest of the world.

Even more importantly, remember that “charity” begins with you. Look after yourself first and then the people around you and ultimately the world.

I am not advocating being selfish and ignoring others at all costs, but saying that you look after your own needs first – after all, if you can’t look after yourself, how will you look after anyone else?

Enjoy being charitable

At the same time enjoy all the abundance around you, both natural and material – it’s there to be enjoyed to the full and shared as appropriate and as much as possible.

I don’t belong to the school of thought that one should deprive themselves of material things, and suffer in sympathy with those suffering and who have less material goodness than you.

“No one would remember the Good Samaritan if he only had good intentions. He had money as well”. – Margaret Thatcher

Of course, don’t go too far the other way in terms of chasing and gathering materials and building up your clutter – keep your life simple. Learn to be a minimalist – please do check out this “Minimalist Guide” from my friend Leo Babauta.

To end, no matter where and how you are drawn to carry out an act of charity, always remember these famous words from St Francis of Assisi:-

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy