Is it, though? The expression “It’s better to give than to receive,” is a quote from the Holy Bible (depending on the translation you’re reading). It’s pretty straightforward and direct in it’s meaning, suggesting that’s it’s always better to give to those who have not, than to receive. Today, I’m looking to ramble a bit on the implications behind this line of thinking and how it applies to modern life. For the most part, I think most people in general would agree that it’s a good thing to help others, whether that means giving them something they need or providing a service that may help them.
The question becomes whether one NEEDS or SHOULD give, through the course of their daily lives. Environment and upbringing also play a significant role. A good example of this would be my mother. My mother still lives in a reasonably sheltered corner of New Brunswick, with a French-Acadian population of just a few thousand. She’s spent the entirety of her life without ever being exposed to the outside world. This means that she’s never seen the racial diversity that exists in our country, nor has had the opportunity to see the dark side of society, where some are forced to live on the streets and beg for money or food.
This lack of perspective came to grinding halt during a visit with my aunt in 2002, where she travelled to Ottawa. Like most major cities, Ottawa has its fair share of homeless, and it isn’t uncommon to walk along the main drag and see people on almost every corner, asking for change. When I lived in Ottawa, I made my peace with the fact that not only did I not often carry change but a person could easily bankrupt themselves trying to give to everyone who needs, My mother had no such filter. She’d stop at every corner, handing out change to every person she found who would ask, to the point that my aunt had to physically drag her from the area. Since my mother comes from a diehard Catholic family, the title rings true in her mind and she felt it was better to give, almost to the point where she’d find herself needing, as well.
There’s no issue with handing off some change to someone who needs it, if you feel you should. In fact, I observe this practice myself. I’ve lost count of the number of times that someone would be standing outside my local convenience store asking for change. If I’ve had some change, I’ve offered it. Once in a rare occasion, I’d even ask if I could bring them out a hot beverage, if the weather was cold. On even rarer occasions, if they catch me on the way out, I’d even sacrifice a can of my beloved energy drinks in order to slate their thirst and give their day a boost. As with all things in life, there’s a balance to this phenomenon. I’ve seen people begging for change while texting on a smart phone. I don’t know about you, but if I found myself in a situation where I was begging others for money, I probably wouldn’t be using a $1,000 electronic device while doing it. Although one can never truly know another person’s circumstances, it tends to take away one’s credibility where need is concerned. But I digress…
The important thing to remember is that yes, it’s good to give. And yes, perhaps you should give. If you can. But if you don’t, this doesn’t automatically make you a bad person. Nor should you be judged or belittled because you haven’t. But there are things to keep in mind when giving to others, and I’ll cover my thoughts in a short list (I promise to keep it succinct, it’s Saturday. You likely have other things to do than read my ramblings):
1. Make Sure You Have It To Give: Number 1 and most important; if you’re contemplating giving to others, whether it’s money, clothing, food, whatever…. Be certain that you have it to give. And what I mean by this is, it may seem like a good idea to donate a large sum of money to a local charity you agree with. But not at the cost of providing a needed level of resources to your family. It may seem like a good idea to donate your winter parka so that someone else doesn’t suffer through a harsh winter. But unless you have the means to keep yourself warm as well, maybe reconsider or alter how you plan to help. Make sense? Good. Moving on…
2. Be Kind And Don’t Judge: I know a lot of people who voice the fact that they wish they could just simply walk from point “A” to point “B” without being “harassed” for money. In downtown Regina, one of the more frequented commercial areas has a sidewalk er that’s usually lined with people holding their hats out or asking for change. The old line “get a job” no longer applies. And one needs to keep in mind that a given person may not be in the position to actually secure a job. There may be elements at play that aren’t visible on the surface. After all, everyone’s got a story…
3. Know Who You’re Giving To And Why: This one applies mostly to charitable giving, as in, donations provided to a charity. Given that we live in an age of immediate information at everyone’s fingertips, it should be pretty easy to research the charity you’re donating to and how your donation will be allotted. If you donate $100 to an organization only to find out that a heavy percentage of your donation goes to salary, staff and overhead and only about 10% ends up ACTUALLY being donated, you may wish to reconsider. Giving someone some change or the coat off your back is pretty straightforward. But if you’re making a “donation,” you should be aware of where your donation is going.
5. Believe In The Cause You’re Donating To: For the past twenty years, I’ve made a point of occasionally donating a large sum to Diabetes Canada and/or the Cancer Society. Between the fact that I have Diabetes myself and many if not most members of my family on my mother’s side have had some form of cancer, these are causes that I’m close to and firmly believe in. This not only makes it easy to try and help. A motivating factor, if you will.
The takeaway to that list (and I still made it longer than I planned) is that you have to ensure that you’re safe and secure first. After all, you can’t help others if you allow yourself to fall into a bad way yourself. There is suffering in the world. This, we know. And it’s always a good idea to try and reduce that suffering in whatever way we can. Just make sure that you know WHY you’re doing it, that your motivations are pure and keep yourself safe and secure while you do so. After all, no person can save the entire world. All one can do is try to help in their own little way; one person at a time. ☯️