Charity is Not About Charities

Charitable organizations do not own the concept of charity.

I think this is an important distinction to make, because it seems that many people feel that in order to be doing their part in society, they have to be giving to charity. It’s simply not true.

Charity happens whenever someone acts on their natural instinct to do good; whenever someone gives of themselves to make the world a better place.

Charities are one vehicle for doing this, but they’re not the only one. You can be pursuing the greater good, for example, through your work, lifestyle choices, political involvement, or personal gestures.

Pouring your time and energy into building a business that improves people’s health is charitable. Devoting yourself to promoting a political candidate you believe will improve people’s lives is charitable. Giving a casserole to the overwhelmed new parents down the block is charitable.

Recently, I’ve heard from more than one person who’s driving toward a goal they believe in and giving it their all, but still feels guilty about not being more involved with charities.

The example that comes to mind is of a young naturopathic doctor who spends all her time trying to help people to take a more holistic approach to their health so that they’ll be well and happy. When I told her what I do, she shamefacedly admitted that she wishes she did more giving.

Why?! Here’s someone with a clear sense of how the world could be a better place and the qualifications to put it into action. She’s already working towards the change she wants to see in the world. Why should she feel ashamed that she’s not also writing a cheque for some other issue?

In my mind, that’s just wrong. Let’s reject the idea that giving to charity is the only way to be charitable. Let’s celebrate good works in all their forms.

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