Charity is the act of extending love and kindness to others unconditionally. It’s a good thing: it makes us altruistic, encourages us to think of others and helps us also to see how lucky we are (to appreciate our privilege). In modern translations of the Bible, St Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians that
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.(1 Corinthians 13:4-13, NIV)
In older Bibles, including the King James Bible of 1611, the word ‘Charity’ is used for ‘Love’. I don’t know whether the change is useful or not, in a world where love has become such a used and (sometimes) devalued coin. I love the rain, which song do you love best, it’s lovely to see you, love love love. And love often carries a sexual tinge. An expression of love between two schoolfriends carries a hint of relationship that, innocently, the children may not be implying but for which they get teased mercilessly. That’s because we’re looking at love with earthly eyes. It’s become a physical act and feeling. Love makes your head spin, your palms go sweaty. It makes you mad. It’s not an easy emotion.
The problem is that charity, as it’s presently seen, is also devalued as a word. Charity is an act we do, often to people we don’t know. It can be impersonal, a monthly donation or an annual contribution, we can make it and claim tax back to make it worth more. Even modern charities are run more like medium to big enterprises than expressions of love, with top executives paid more than most Members of the UK Parliament and several paid well more than the Prime Minister of the UK. Let’s not talk value for money here, but that working at the top echelons of a charity is not done for nothing.
But charity, proper charity, requires more of us than that. With its roots in the word Caritas, it means a display of love, not bodily love, but pure love, holy love, love of a person simply for being a person and not because of who or what they are to us. Charity requires us at one and the same time to feel a connection to all people of the Earth and want to work for their betterment, to hold all people in our hearts and want to help those we see in need or suffering. It probably won’t come as a big surprise, but the closer you are to charity yourself, the more of your income percentage wise you give. One study in America found that the poorest fifth of the population gave away 4.3% of their income while the richest fifth gave away 2.1%. Of course, the wealthier people still gave away more, with an average total of $453 against $3,326 per person but there’s a question there about who sees the need to help others more.
Charity shouldn’t be done to make us feel good. Writing a cheque and forgetting about the issue until the next email campaign or advert surfaces is convenient, but really betrays a lack of charity from the giver. It would, perhaps, be far better to find a charity that speaks to your inner self, concentrate on its mission and work and do what you can in monetary terms as well as time spent on acts to help them. Get involved with the people you’re giving to: offer time as well as cash. Campaign, crusade, commit. In the modern world, we really have to see charity as something that will give long term benefit, not a short term stop gap. Charity doesn’t work if it leaves the recipient in need of more charity next year. We should be pushing to improve the world and to stop needing charity, not to increase charitable giving. For a more detailed look at which charities are best to donate to, look up This Is Money in the UK or Consumer Reports in the US. As far as I can tell, medical charities aiming to rid the world of common diseases that kill so many children and adults across the globe come out tops.
Of course, there can be great truth in the axiom “Charity begins at home”. Finding a local charity in an area of expertise that interests you may lead to you giving more, both in time and money. Do you live near a Centre of Expertise, have a relative who has/had a disease that needs more research, have a deep interest in environmental matters or any other area of political interest that means this charity appeals to you more than that one? Personal involvement and a heart wanting to help are worth more than a hasty cheque and a tick on the to do list. And if money’s not your thing…. there are other ways to help out.
Daily Read: How to be Charitable Without Money. Spend time and effort on those who need it. There are some great ideas in this article, many of which cost nothing so that charity giving doesn’t depend on income.
10 Wonderful and Wacky Ways to Be Charitable. Because another bungee jump just won’t do.
Daily Book: The Ikabog by J K Rowling. Published online during Lockdown, this fairytale helped many parents and children find a few quiet moments together in a crazy world. Profits from the hardback edition are also going to UK NHS charities, so it’s a book that helps charitable causes. Goodreads has a list of other books that support charitable causes, while the most famous fundraiser of all is still donating money to Great Ormond Street Hospital, Peter Pan by J M Barrie was set up to permanently donate its royalties to the hospital.
Self Care Act of the Day: Buy some Fairtrade chocolate and enjoy it, square by square and lick by lick with a completely free conscience.
How to Hygge the British Way is my gift to the world. I don’t get paid for writing it, I’m not in it for the kudos, financial rewards, to become an influencer, work with brands or otherwise make any money from the blog. That’s why there are no ads, and any products I mention and recommend have either been gifted or bought by me with my everyday wages.
I do get a couple of pennies each time someone buys from the Amazon links on my page, as an Amazon Affiliate, but otherwise if you’d like to support me, I like to give something back in return. That’s why I write books. You can find a full list of my books at my Author’s Page on Amazon, but especially recommended for this time of year are:
A Self Care Christmas: A short ebook on keeping Christmas simple and making sure it doesn’t overwhelm.
Celebrating a Contagious Christmas: Available in ebook and paperback, it’s about making this year a festival of Hope.
Happier: Probably my most personal book, it’s the story of how I used hygge and the little rhings in life to help boost my happiness. I still go back and reread to remind myself what I need to do to be a happy human.
Cosy Happy Hygge: Setting up a rhythm to life and rituals to enjoy it to make for a more balanced life that handles waves and storms better.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas, however we get to celebrate it this year, and a Happy, Healthy and Simple New Year.