They say the essence of living is in giving, but can this be true? Imagine exiting this life without a legacy, an impact, a cause or anything at all to be remembered for? Such an individual can be said to have existed but not to have lived. Come to think of it, if humans were not able to give life to their likes (i.e. reproduce) you and I would not be here as the human race would have gone extinct like some other less fortunate species we read about. In Biology, we learn that the ability to give life and pass on genetic information to their offspring is one of the characteristics of living things. Perhaps even science confirms that ‘giving’ confers on one the title of a ‘living being.’
In our locality, it is common place for people to expect persons who are perceived as more privileged to always give to the perceived less privileged; but in all honesty, nobody should be exempted from giving or receiving since the notion of privilege is relative and varies from one context to another. In the words of His Holiness Pope John Paul II of blessed memory, “Nobody is so poor that he has nothing to give and nobody is so rich that he has nothing to receive”.
We should understand that giving is not limited to the handing over of material resources, or giving out hand-outs; rather it refers to any process by which value (in any form) is created, added or bestowed. One may gift his or her time, money, resources, talent, skill, experience, service, influence to another. Even something as simple as a genuine smile or a heartfelt compliment can have very far reaching positive impacts on the lives of others.
You’ve probably heard the clichéd statement “I am self-made”, but is anyone actually self-made in the true sense of it? We are all products of our various societies that shape us into becoming who we are. The society offers us the opportunities which we take, in the process we win some and lose some.
It will help to sit back and reminisce into the past to recall that for each and every one of us, someone gave us what happened to be our first chance and even when we flunked it, we were not banished from the surface of the earth, rather there was a second chance, and maybe a third, all because someone or persons believed in us and chose to persevere. Someone probably spotted that talent in you even when you were yet to come to its realisation; another may have offered you that invaluable advice that ensured your life or career literally took off while there may have been that someone who unbeknownst to him or her has motivated and influenced you positively, preparing you for the success that you enjoy today.
Should you catch yourself thinking so lowly of the assistance someone offered you in terms of what you think it is worth, then stop and have a rethink; the fact that you probably do not have access to privy information as regards the opportunity cost of such magnanimity makes it rather difficult to ascertain its real worth. Think about the opportunity cost others incurred for being of assistance to you as the real price they had to pay so that they can ‘’give’’ to you.
In recent times there has been growing interest in CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) by corporate organisations; however, there is need to apply caution here. There is the temptation to offer a cheap product or try to do just about anything (even when it has absolutely no impact on the lives of the beneficiaries) ‘‘in exchange’’ for prime advertising space. This is not giving back but simply another way of doing business in disguise.
In giving back, you give without expecting any benefits, recognition, or rewards coming your way. Your biggest consolation is the realisation that you’ve made a significant impact in someone’s life, and if not “significant” then a positive impact nevertheless.
In June 2010, The Giving Pledge, a campaign to encourage the wealthy people of the world to contribute their wealth to philanthropic causes was formally launched by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet both of whom began recruiting members. The organization’s goal is to inspire the wealthy people of the world to give the majority of their net worth to philanthropy, either during their lifetime or upon their death. Although it is not a legal contract, it is a moral commitment to give. As at March 2016, $365 billion has been pledged by about 139 individuals.
Think about the numerous awards, prizes, trusts, endowment funds, academic chairs, scholarships etc. donated by individuals, foundations and non-governmental organizations in institutions of learning, research etc. to encourage and further various just causes the world over. The Mo Ibrahim prize for achievement in African leadership, the Chevening Scholarships awarded to outstanding emerging leaders and the Alfred Nobel set of prizes for outstanding contributions for humanity in the disciplines of Chemistry, Economics, Literature, peace, Physics/Physiology/Medicine, to mention a few.
We will not be in a hurry to forget the on-going efforts and the achievements recorded by the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation in ensuring the eradication of polio in sub-Saharan Africa
Also just recently, Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan announced the Zuckerberg Chan initiative to work together with scientists, doctors, engineers and universities in part by building tools and technology which will help to cure, prevent or manage all disease within our children’s lifetime. To this cause, the couple has pledged 3 billion dollars of funding over the next decade. Zuckerberg believes there’s the potential to invest in tools that could be applicable to understanding and solving many diseases, such as artificial intelligence software to learn more about how the brain works, continuous bloodstream monitoring to catch diseases early, and a map of all the different cell types in the body to help researchers who are designing drugs.
There is so much each of us can give in our own sphere of influence to impact the world positively. They say if you cannot do a great thing, then do that small thing in a great way. In whatever positions we find ourselves, we should be of service to others.
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