Charity Begins at Home: And It Begins with You!
Editor’s Note: If you’re looking for “giving” inspiration, watch the inspiring video at the end of this article. Through our friend Janet Neal, founder of the SuperbWoman and most recently “The Tribe” (which you are invited to join) Anne Akers interviewed the heads of two wonderful non-profits – Nancy Northrop of Operation Reinvent and Sue Matthews of Conquering Kidz Cancer, a taybanz organization.
“But how shall we expect charity towards others, when we are uncharitable to ourselves? Charity begins at home, and is the voice of the world”. Sir Thomas Browne, 1642
Who do we credit for this well-known quotation and what is its origin? While the concept itself seems Biblical in origin, one of the people most referenced as the author is Sir Thomas Browne, an English physician, writer and theologian. While this is a wonderful proverb, experts agree that its true meaning is often misinterpreted. One source claims that when people say ‘Charity begins at home’, they often mean that one should look after their own children, their own circle and be kind to all. Another source believes that the original meaning is that charity begins in the home, which is to say, children learn charitable habits by the examples set from their parents. From the standpoint of etymology, the word “charity” in the original Greek is “agape”, which means “love”. And surely most will agree that “love” can be considered the basis of most charitable acts.
How to Teach Your Kids to Give Back
How does a child learn best? The simple answer is education and example. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if giving and philanthropy were part of a required curriculum in our school systems? There are indeed such programs in some schools but not on a universal basis. In the meantime, the importance of helping those in need is taught or preached in our churches, mosques, and synagogues. And many communities organize activities that encourage, and provide children, with the opportunity to give back. The more children are exposed to charitable activity, the more likely they are to participate.
Children also learn the value of giving by seeing it in action! The example you set, as a parent, grandparent, godparent, aunt or other family member, will not only draw the family together but will also help children see their role in the world as something larger than their own needs. Perhaps the best way to start is to find a cause that matches the child’s interests or skill set: is your child moved by other children without parents, children with physical handicaps, or perhaps the problems of the environment, the struggle of animals or other. The more you can engage your child in causes, through your own example, and also encouraging their peers to join along, the more the child will learn to give, to grow, and to understand the benefits, and joy, of giving and helping others.
Charitable Giving As a Family Affair
So does charity really begin at home? Does it start at the dinner table? Is it genetic? Or at its best, is it a family affair? The list of families for whom charitable giving is an “a way of life” of course includes well-known names like the Rockefellers, the Fords, Bill Gates and his wife Melinda, the Waltons of Wal Mart, and even most recently, Mark Zuckerman of Facebook Fame. One of my favorite examples of a family marrying both service and charitable giving is the Shrivers. Maria Shriver, the family matriarch once said, “I was raised in a home where it wasn’t just an expectation, it was the only thing that mattered”. Her brother Bobby, who is deeply involved in issues surrounding housing for Veterans and mental health services, adds, “My parents held meetings at our house every weekend, traveled non-stop, and debated ideas at dinner. It showed me the importance of relentless effort, and it showed me that this work can be fun.” Indeed, with the Shriver family contributions to the Special Olympics, Save the Children, the Peace Corps, and finding jobs for the mentally disabled, one could say that service, and in turn charitable giving, is a family business. The work of the Shriver family is based on collaborations with one another and one can safely assume that the tradition will be continued with future generations.
Giving Is a Lifetime Affair
When is the best time to give? It has been said that the best time to give is when you can.
That will vary from person to person. Certainly, life is often unpredictable and our personal circumstances can change overnight. It may be that as a busy career woman, Mom, and homemaker, life’s demand are such that there is simply no time in your schedule to “give back”. At that time, perhaps making a financial donation (no matter the size) is something that you can do and will be the best choice for you.
At other stages of our life, we may have the time but not the financial resources. Retirement, for example, may be a perfect time to utilize our free time and extra energy into charitable endeavors. Many retires have a wealth of knowledge and insights learned from successful careers, perhaps running a business or even the skills of running a household that can be invaluable.
So whatever your circumstance…..from childhood to young adult, middle years, and retirement……the opportunity to give awaits you. You will write your own story of giving…….it begins with the Greek word “agave” for love and it ends with our feelings of gratitude, our love for others, our empathy for the suffering of others, and because giving honors the human condition. If you are looking for a cause that connects to your personal interests, two excellent sources are Charity Navigator (www.charity navigator.org) and GuideStar (www.guidestar.org). And please continue to follow the “Cause Connector” column in Three Tomatoes where we will be profiling notable causes in the months ahead.
Baby Boomers, “empty nesters”, retirees, and Tomatoes, all have invaluable experiences, knowledge, stories, and “gifts to give” for the many causes that are deserving of our attention.Anne Akers is a great “cause connector”. She has been involved in many levels of not-for-profit work for decades, including Gala Committees, board service, and much more, with an emphasis on women’s health, financial literacy, military women, and female empowerment. In addition, you may know her as the Founder/Editor in Chief of GLOW Beauty, Health and Wellness Magazine; the Founder/Publisher of Castle Connolly Graduate Medical Publishing; co-Founder of MDPublish.com, and a private business development/marketing consultant in the aesthetic/medical field.