Beginning and end of charity

One of the points dealt with was thought-provoking – What prompts a person to be charitable? One participant declared that a person thinks of charitable deeds when all his own needs are met and he develops a sense of security.

Almost immediately, this was countered by the trustee of a charitable organisation. She knew of a woman, none too rich, who walked miles every month to donate a small sum of money from her meagre earnings. It was quite obvious that she did this not from an absence of needs, but in spite of them.

Both contentions are arguably correct. The better question therefore to ask would be what charity really means. One might say it consists in reaching out to the needy.

However, who are the needy? I well remember my encounter with an unshaven, sad-eyed man outside a druggist’s store. He held out a prescription for his daughter who was suffering from typhoid.  Sensing desperate need, I bought the medicines for him. To my utter chagrin, he approached me again with the same prescription and the same request in another area of the city. Obviously he had not recognised me. But I knew he was the same person and that it was a con-job.

Could the needy then be the ill-clad children who importune you at traffic-signals? They could well be pawns in an unscrupulous network. Do the beggars outside places of worship fall into this category? They have often been found to have secret hoards of money stashed away.

Perhaps the needy are best counted and served by charitable organisations? But many of these are mere fronts for ill-gotten gains. It would be tempting at this juncture to point out, as one friend did, that ours is to give and not question. But charity that does not lend succour and relief is no charity at all and this brings us to the solution.

True charity consists in helping people who are around us and who we know are in need. They could be your servants, friends or family. The spirit in which we give also makes up a large part of what charity is all about. When done with an eye on gain, recognition or fame, it lacks authenticity. Also it hardly merits the name when performed from obligation, goodwill or guilt.

True charity consists in a giving of yourself. It could be your money, services or your time. It neither boasts nor advertises for it begins and ends within one’s own self.

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