Breaking down the myths, gift of giving is powerful

The month of May signals the successful completion of yet another semester and an extended break for most students. It brings with it a corresponding increase in the general happiness on campus. In such times, students though we are, we would do well to spare a thought for those who are less fortunate than us.

The first myth we must overcome about giving is the misplaced belief that people are misers by nature and will not donate to causes where they see no potential gain for themselves. On the contrary, it would seem people want to give to deserving causes yet are held back just by the inertia of changing their way of life and going out of their way to help strangers.

“The financial ability to contribute to charity, and the willingness to do so, are strikingly unrelated,” wrote New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.

Kristof goes on to point out that as a class, the working poor are often more generous than the middle class by percentage of income. This seems to support the view that what people really need are reminders about the dire conditions around them and any little thing they do can help.

Another factor bandied about in discussions on donations to aid and charity efforts is the giver’s affiliation; here Kristof offers the example of the European nations versus the United States. It is claimed the former espouse more aid for the poor, and give more to humanitarian aid per capita than the U.S., but it is Americans who are far more open with their wallets on an individual level.

These assertions all showcase the futility of using conventional wisdom to predict a population’s response to pressing philanthropic issues. We must never lose faith in the power of our assistance however small it may be. Consequently, we must also never stop giving out of a sense of futility. To paraphrase Gandhi, whatever you do may seem insignificant, but it is most important that you do it.

This assistance need not just be monetary — as college students, we can offer numerous other resources, including our time and creativity to organizations that help the less privileged. There are numerous organizations right here on campus that support various causes, and all it takes is a trip down to Student Organization Resource Center or shorter still, online, to find the one that most interests you.

All things considered, it does not bode well for mankind that the nicest things we seem to be able to do for our fellow beings come when they have little left to live for. The hectic pace of life during the semester is too trivial an excuse to put off helping people through acts that cost us very little indeed — it’s time we changed that.

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