The season of giving

Posted 12/23/19

It’s the season of giving, a time of year when people gather to celebrate together, giving gifts to friends and family and to those in need. It is an innate human expression, and some …

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The season of giving

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It’s the season of giving, a time of year when people gather to celebrate together, giving gifts to friends and family and to those in need. It is an innate human expression, and some psychologists believe humans enjoy giving more than receiving. It makes sense that, for as long as humans have recorded their thoughts, people have expressed their thoughts about giving—how it feels, what it means and how it fits into our experience. What follows are what a few notable individuals had to say about giving:

  • From Albert Schweitzer, humanitarian, philosopher and physician who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952 for his philosophy of “Reverence for Life”:

“Seek always to do some good, somewhere. Everyman has to seek in his own way to realize his true worth. You must give some time to your fellow man. Even if it’s a little thing, do something for those who need help, something for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it. For remember, you don’t live in a world all your own. Your brothers are here too.”

  • From John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States:

“The raising of extraordinarily large sums of money, given voluntarily and freely by millions of our fellow Americans, is a unique American tradition… Philanthropy, charity, giving voluntarily and freely… call it what you like, but it is truly a jewel of an American tradition.”

  • From C.S. Clive Lewis, a British writer and theologian:

“The proper aim of giving is to put the recipient in a state where he no longer needs our gifts… Thus a heavy task is laid upon gift-love. It must work toward its own abdication. We must aim at making ourselves superfluous. The hour when we can say ‘They need me no longer’ should be our reward. But the instinct, simply in its own nature, has no power to fulfill this law.”

  • From Martin Luther King Jr. a reverend and civil rights leader:

“Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.”

  • From Melinda French Gates, who runs the Gates Foundation with her husband Bill:

“We started our foundation because we believe we have a real opportunity to help advance equity around the world, to help make sure that, no matter where a person is born, he or she has the chance to live a healthy, productive life.”

  • From Robert Kennedy, U.S. Attorney General, politician and lawyer:

“Let no one be discouraged by the belief that there is nothing one person can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills, misery, ignorance and violence. Few will have the greatness to bend history, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. And in the total of all those acts will be written the history of a generation.”

  • From George Bernard Shaw, playwright and Nobel Prize of Literature winner:

“I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community. And as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. Life is no brief candle to me; it is a sort of splendid torch, which I have got hold of for a short moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to the future generations.”

  • From Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister of Great Britain:

“The best philanthropy is not just about giving money but giving leadership. The best philanthropists bring the gifts that made them successful—the drive, the determination, the refusal to accept that something can’t be done if it needs to be—into their philanthropy.”

  • From Mother Teresa, a nun and missionary:

“I must be willing to give whatever it takes to do good to others. This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts. Otherwise, there is no true love in me, and I bring injustice, not peace, to those around me.”

  • From Alexander McCall Smith, writer and professor of medical law:

“Gracious acceptance is an art, an art which most never bother to cultivate. We think that we have to learn how to give, but we forget about accepting things, which can be much harder than giving.... Accepting another person’s gift is allowing him to express his feelings for you.”

  • From Paul Bloom, psychologist and professor of psychology and cognitive science:

“We are constituted so that simple acts of kindness, such as giving to charity or expressing gratitude, have a positive effect on our long-term moods. The key to the happy life, it seems, is the good life: a life with sustained relationships, challenging work and connections to community.”

  • From Gretchen Rubin, author of books such as “The Happiness Project”:

“The belief that unhappiness is selfless and happiness is selfish is misguided. It’s more selfless to act happy. It takes energy, generosity and discipline to be unfailingly lighthearted, yet everyone takes the happy person for granted. No one is careful of his feelings or tries to keep his spirits high. He seems self-sufficient; he becomes a cushion for others. And because happiness seems unforced, that person usually gets no credit.”

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