Once again, it's that time of the year when we make new resolutions. Many of us reflect on the insights garnered over the last 12 months. Even as the world continues to evolve and change rapidly around us, some of us try to understand what really matters in the long run. Yet, when things do go well for each of us, how often do we think of those who are less fortunate than us? Do we think of people who do not have the luxury to pause for a moment as they struggle to make ends meet every day?
Dhaanam, or charity, has been an age-old tradition of our society. When one gives in kind or otherwise to less fortunate ones, the giver and the receiver benefit from the act. The Bhagavad Gita says "a gift is pure when it is given from the heart to the right person at the right time and at the right place, and when we expect nothing in return."
Recently, I have been volunteering to help young children read to improve their skills. These children from economically disadvantaged families struggle to cross certain criteria in reading English and the reading programme helps improve student literacy. Whenever I talk about my activity to friends and family, I feel embarrassed to hear their words of appreciation. The reason being that there is so much more I could do.
For many years now, my husband's friend has been taking care of a home for women and young children affected with HIV/AIDS on the outskirts of Bengaluru. He celebrates holidays and birthdays of these children at the home and tirelessly works around the year to keep it going. There are other people who work quietly behind the scenes. Non-resident Indians with hearts as big as their wallets, however, lament about the lack of transparency in charitable organisations or finding the right NGO where the paperwork is minimum.
But even this act of giving is not without its woes. Every cause is worthy and every bit counts. However, sometimes we pass judgement about how much 'more' people can give.
"It's like being held under a moral scanner by others," confessed a friend who sends money to different charities during Diwali. Whether it is writing a cheque or spending time at a hospice or collecting funds, any effort by a person has to be lauded. We need to understand what Mother Teresa meant when she said, "It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving."
Social service is a way of life and it needs to be inculcated at a young age. "I know what I want to study in college!" When my daughter announced over dinner one night, I braced myself for the worst. "I'm going to take up social work as my major study," she continued. Needless to say, dinner tasted like sawdust for me that night even as I valiantly put on my best encouraging smile. And then it occurred to me - charity does begin at home but it should not end there. The next time I met my daughter, my smiles were no longer forced.