WHAT IS CHARITY?
Can giving to others make us healthy? Research studies show that giving has a powerful effect on our health……BUT ONLY if it is truly charitable giving. How do we make sure that it is TRUE CHARITY? Charity is the voluntary act of giving time, help, money, products or services to others who are in need, and who are not related to the giver.Most forms of charity consist of offering food, shelter, or volunteering our time in service, assisting those who are experiencing misfortune. Charity is also the general daily acts of human kindness, compassion, consideration, and love.
WHY CHARITY FEELS GOOD
What is at the root of charity, and why does it feel good to both the giver and the receiver? Historical documents show us that deep at the root of charity is divine love. The Greek word “agape” ἀγάπη means charity and selfless, divine love, as opposed to sexual or human love. This is the highest state of consciouness possible in it’s human form. The word “agape” was translated to “love” in this popular bible quotation.
“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and do not have love (agape), it profits me nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2
So clearly there is much more to charity (“agape”) than just “helping” others. Think about charity for a moment. What value would charity be if we were giving money or service, to the Red Cross, for example, out of a feeling of frustration, duty or regret? Charity is about helping, yes, but also about an attitude of selflessness, compassion, and love. Let’s look at some other popular quotes about charity.
“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”
― Mother Teresa
“No one has ever become poor by giving.”
― Anne Frank, Diary of Anne Frank
“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.”
― John Holmes
“The simplest acts of kindness are by far more powerful then a thousand heads bowing in prayer.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
“A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog.”
― Jack London
“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”
― John Bunyan
تبسمك في وجه أخيك صدقة، وأمرك بالمعروف صدقة ونهيك عن المنكر صدقة، وإرشادك الرجل في أرض الضلال لك صدقة، ونصرك الرجل الرديء البصر لك صدقة، وإماطتك الحجر والشوك العظم عن الطريق لك صدقة
“Smiling in your brother’s face is an act of charity. So is enjoining good and forbidding evil, giving directions to the lost traveler, aiding the blind and removing obstacles from the path.”
(Graded authentic by Ibn Hajar and al-Albani: Hidaayat-ur-Ruwaah, 2/293)
RESEARCH ON THE EFFECTS OF CHARITY ON HEALTH
Many studies in the past ten years, have shown that engaging in acts of volunteerism and charity can greatly improve our health. A report entitled, “The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research,” stated that a significant connection was found between volunteering and good health. The report shows that volunteers lived longer, had higher functional ability, lower rates of depression and less incidence of heart disease. Studies such as, “Volunteering and Mortality Among Older Adults: Findings From a National Sample” by Marc A. Musick, A. Regula Herzog and James S. House, and “Volunteering and Health: What Impact Does it Really Have? A Report to Volunteering England” by Casiday, R. and Kinsman, E. and Fisher, C. and Bambra, confirm these findings.
There is also research evidence that volunteers make a difference to the health and well-being of service users. Studies have found that those receiving charity and service experience an increased level of self esteem, they are better able to manage and accept their illness and disease, and improved relationships with care providing staff and professionals.
Charity is clearly beneficial both the giver and the receiver. With that in mind, as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, we are always looking for volunteers here at the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance, if you feel so inclined to give in service in this way. 😉 But in all seriousness, this article wasn’t written with that in mind. Rather it’s a focus on maintaining a daily, moment to moment, state of consciousness of “charity,” this is the “agape” selfless, divine state, that was first discussed above.
HOW DO WE MAINTAIN A CHARITY CONSCIOUSNESS?
First we start with charity to ourselves. We can’t practice charity, until we are able to detox ourselves from mental stresses, emotional blocks, fears, and neglect. We must learn to love and care for ourselves so that we are able to truly give charity to ourselves and others, not just the “check it off the list” attitude. When we can learn to care for ourselves with a joyful spirit of fun, then we begin to nourish and heal our bodies and we are better able to give charity to those around us. This is true charity. How do we do that? We start listening to ourselves and take action. Here are a few tips:
- keep a journal
- meditate or pray
- exercise regularly
- eat healthy foods
- see your trusted health-care specialist regularly
- have fun doing things you love
- follow your dreams, hopes, and desires
- spend time with people who love and appreciate you
- read uplifting, inspiring and motivational books or writings
- join a support group
- set goals and accomplish them
- find a goal buddy to keep you on track
- make a list of your talents and assets
- make a list of charitable acts of service that are needed in your community
So next time a family member calls and wants us to help mow the lawn or take out the trash, we might want to think about the the wisdom shared today and the difference between true charity, and merely helping with a sense of duty and responsibility. Practicing true charity is a gift we give ourselves and others. Let us end contemplating the words of Maya Angelou:
“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”
― Maya Angelou
The Effects of Volunteering on the Physical and Mental Health of Older People
Effects of Volunteering on the Well-Being of Older Adults
Volunteering and Mortality Among Older Adults: Findings From a National Sample – Marc A. Musick, A. Regula Herzog and James S. House
Volunteering and Health: What Impact Does it Really Have? A Report to Volunteering England. Casiday, R. and Kinsman, E. and Fisher, C. and Bambra