The meaning of charity

When the subject came up in class and we had to brainstorm over the meaning of charity, I found my mind stammering over this simple yet so elusive word.

“My mum says charity is to give something you don’t need to other people who need it” said Christine. Well this sums up the idea, doesn’t it?

“Now guys, this might be true, yet I feel that true charity lies with the notion of giving away something you probably can spare to someone who needs it. For instance, say you have two pencils you equally like and you are asked to give one of them to a child you don’t know, who doesn’t have any. Would you do so?”

Silence surrounded us for a minute before the spell was broken by the wooden sound of pencils mingling together as the kids were briskly searching their pencil cases to put my theory into practice.

They would, of course they would, as their childish generosity allows them to do so.

The whole discussion stayed with me and I decided to better try and render the meaning. Is charity truly about giving away?

It would seem that we are driven by different motives, each and every one though having to do with serving our altruistic ego. Be it our guilt, remorse, sense of unfulfilling, fear of cosmic retaliation, need of self-applaud or social obligation, it appears as if in the core of charity beats the very heart of our selfishness. Eager to always pray on something. Another question then tormented me. For all the right or the wrong reasons, shouldn’t we just do it? Does it really matter why? Well, it mattered to me.

After days of rejecting and secretly admitting to a self-interested humanity even when offering, a word popped into mind.

“Philanthropy”.  A term deriving from Greek, inextricably linked with charity and donating, though with its literal translation being “loving the human”. Should our hand be guided by such a noble idea, wouldn’t our devouring selfishness be cast out?

I went back to class, surprising the kids – for they were pretty sure we had already dropped the subject – with the new idea. They embraced it, and even though the new case scenario included them giving away something they wanted to someone they had never met, anonymously, without expecting to take any credits, not even a mere thanks, they were more than willing to do so.

Their unpretentious selflessness grabbed and completely indulged into “loving the human” notion. Even, after having battled with the question of “aren’t we human after all” when I feared my noble knight would go off the window, disarmed, as the “self” showed up in its silk robes disguised as part of a whole.

Even then, especially then, I realized it. The magic, not the curse. To love the human being, because we are human, not instead of it. Demonstrating our ability to identify with another entity so indispensably, that we become indivisibly one.

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