I worked in the Communications Department at a university that received a large financial gift one summer. It prompted a rather vigorous discussion regarding how to best recognize the donation.
Several students working in various departments were gathered in the coffee room as part of the discussion when one student asked why there would be so much fuss over the donation. He felt that while the gift was very large and the school should express gratitude for it, it wasn't more important than any other gift the school received. He said a gift given by someone able to give $20 is every bit as significant as this gift in the hundreds of thousands range. Both were given to support something they felt important—and they supported at the level they could.
When a celebrity or philanthropist makes a sizable donation to a cause, attention follows, and with that attention comes critique and even criticism. While their status can encourage others to support good causes, it can also raise questions and sometimes cynicism. Is the individual using their fame to inspire others, or is there something more in it for them? If someone genuinely wants to give, do they need to make a public splash about it? Why not just give quietly? And knowing the number of eyes it attracts, is the ensuing scrutiny worth it?
Raging wildfires prompted some of the world’s richest people to step up with financial contributions, and to make their donations public. One billionaire’s efforts were mocked when someone did the math and reported his donation was roughly what he earned in one minute. It was said to be like someone making the median hourly wage donating 33 cents. Words like' petty', 'hypocrisy' and 'poorly thought-out PR stunt' were hurled. If he had just given the money, without fanfare, there would have been no public outcry to accompany it.
A fashion designer joined a celebrity chain donating $1000 bail money for those arrested in protests. But when he posted his receipt, it showed a donation of $50 and made the millionaire regret his public display and the criticism it rained down.
Yes, it is easy to look down our noses at those who seem to have much and yet don’t give in amounts we think they should. But let’s lift our eyes back into proper position, stop looking at others and, instead, focus the gaze on ourselves. It’s not about what others do. It’s about what we do.
Instead of giving thanks for the opportunity to contribute, some seem more focused on puffing themselves up or seeking the admiration of others. But there is something so beautiful about humility in giving; giving because it means something to us; giving what we can; giving when no one else sees.
Giving is good for our health. It floods our bodies with endorphins, decreases blood pressure and reduces stress. In short, it makes us feel good. But of course that’s not why we do it. Nor should we be motivated by thinking our gift is besting the dollar value of someone else. True giving involves not expecting anything back. It is selfless. Gracious. It is an expression of our desire to have an impact.
We have so much to give--and so many ways to do so. It is in the acts of help, encouragement and care that we fulfill our desire to give. So we listen when needed, send a card when appropriate, move furniture when asked, bake a cake when necessary, donate money when required, pray always, and share as we were taught.
A true expression of gratitude comes when we are willing to give what we have--not for recognition--not by being pretentious or pompous--but giving motivated by humility, meekness and service. How truly blessed we are that we have so much we can give away.
This weekend let's give thanks; thanks that we can give in whatever amount and whatever form that might be. The best expression of that is putting the giving into the thanks. That's my outlook.