by Kevin d' Aquino
"Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see."
- Mark Twain
Philanthropy is a wonderful concept.
The ability to share a portion of individual wealth with those less fortunate, whether acquired through family inheritance, accumulated through personal enterprise or achieved by chance is a noble concept and one I hold very dear.
Of course the proviso here is ‘wealth’...or is it?
Must we have achieved a certain level of wealth before we qualify as a ‘Philanthropist’?
Strangely, look up ‘philanthropist’ in any dictionary and the first definition that will present itself is ‘Humanitarian’.
Do you need to be rich in order to be a humanitarian? No, you don’t.
The simple act of providing assistance to those less fortunate than you, in whatever manner that you are capable of, qualifies you as a humanitarian and therefore as a philanthropist.
The distinction in my mind is a fiscal one; Philanthropists give money, humanitarians give time, love and emotional support.
The one is very personal – the other, not so much.
So does the way that we contribute detract from the act of giving? Is the one any less valuable, sincere or significant than the other? Nope, I don’t believe it is.
But here’s the rub. Giving has to hurt, right? It has to mean something or it means nothing. Que the story of the rich guy who gives a beggar R50 and the beggar is overjoyed. When another guy drops R10 in his hat the beggar makes mention of the R50 that the guy before donated. “Ah, says the man, but that was my last R10.”
The only deduction we can take from this is that the value of the donation is measured in humanitarian rather than fiscal terms – and rightly so!
That’s not to say we all need to join the local ‘Bleeding Hearts’ brigade, join hands and sing ‘Kumbaya’ around the camp fire. We all have personal responsibilities and social lives that need not be suddenly imbued with Mother Theresa like sacrificial gestures. Your mates at the braai will just look at you funny - not even your mom will understand.
But you can make a difference; you can, as a socially responsible member of society, choose to do something that will make a tangible difference in the life of another human being.
And here’s the kicker – the knock-on effect of your contribution will be measured not in profit but in kindness -