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Our Hope for a Better World is Reflected in Our Acts of Giving

   Nov 02, 2020

A message from CharityWatch Executive Director, Laurie Styron

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that suffering exists on a spectrum. However each of us measures success and stability in our lives — financial wealth, good health, a strong support system of family and friends, mobility, prolific creativity, the freedom that comes from having access to opportunity and choices — this year we have all been forced to sacrifice and to adapt, sometimes in uncomfortable and unfamiliar ways. In this sense, suffering has revealed itself as a great equalizer. None of us has escaped unscathed. There is a powerful lesson in this.

Many of us are socialized to think about giving in a binary way. We accept that there are haves and have-nots—those who give and others who receive. In truth, no one has cornered the market on need or generosity. We are each simultaneously capable of giving and receiving in different ways in any given moment. Need is also not a fixed state of being. It’s contextual. As our life circumstances change, so do our resources. At some points in life we have more time than money, and in others, more money than time. The constant is that we always have something of value to contribute to make the world a better place. Reflecting on those moments when someone helped us through a difficult time, we can choose to pay it forward by helping a friend or a stranger, by donating to charity, by volunteering our time, or by lending an attentive ear to a lonely soul in need of our company.

This year has been tough for everyone. But we can’t make next year a better one without taking concrete action. And we won’t take action unless we maintain hope for the future. We may lose hope and fail to act when:

  • We become overwhelmed by the infinite needs we observe around us. Like a deer in headlights, we can become frozen by indecision.
  • A problem seems too large or unwieldy relative to our ability to make an impact. What we have to offer feels equivalent to using a bucket to pitch water out of a sinking ship.

  • We assume that those with more resources have both the means and the will to address all of society’s unmet needs. If we don’t help, someone else will.

In these uncertain times, it’s understandable that some of us may feel powerless to change our collective circumstances for the better. This is why it’s so important to be mindful of how our thoughts shape our words, and how our words, in turn, shape our actions. Those who think about giving as a collective practice within a community, rather than as a series of individual transactions, can feel a stronger sense of connection to our shared humanity.

Remember that no one person can solve all the world’s ills alone. A foundation or wealthy individual may have the necessary resources to tackle a large problem at its root cause. In the meantime, those who are cold still need shelter, those who are hungry still need food, and those who are lonely still need the gift of our time.

Each of us can proactively reflect on how we are best suited to help according to our individual resources and abilities. Find your niche and commit to the practice of giving thoughtfully, generously, and consistently. You have the power and the resources to improve another person’s life. The year 2020 will soon be in the rearview mirror. Hope for the future is a self-fulfilling prophecy when we allow it to inspire concrete acts of giving. It starts with you.