As a little boy growing up in poverty in Hong Kong, Chinese martial arts actor Jackie Chan lived in an orphanage. When he visited the Philippines, he told the press: “We received help from the Red Cross every month. One day, I went up to the priest from the Red Cross to say thank you. He said, ‘I’m just the deliverer. When you grow up, show your appreciation by giving to others.’”
Those words stuck in his mind. So much so that after he became a bankable actor, he founded the Jackie Chan Charitable Foundation in 1988. Its objectives include helping the elderly and movie workers injured on the job, and giving scholarships to poor children who wish to pursue careers in sciences or performing arts.
What the Chinese actor is doing reminds me of the words of Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes. “The gratification of wealth is not found in mere possession or in lavish expenditure, but in its wise application.”
English politician and writer Joseph Addison had the same opinion. “I have somewhere met with the epitaph on a charitable man which has pleased me very much,” he penned. “I cannot recollect the words, but here is the sense of it: What I spent I lost; what I possessed is left to others; what I gave away remains with me.”
This brings us to an anecdote shared by Willie Hoffsuemmer. It goes this way: A rich man complained to his friend, “People don’t like me. They say I’m selfish and stingy. And yet in my last will and testament, I have donated all that I own to a charitable institution.”
His friend told him: “Well, maybe the story of the cow and pig has a lesson for you. The pig came to the cow and complained, ‘People always talk about your friendliness. Well, it’s true: you give them milk. But they get much, much more from me. They get ham and bacon and lard, and they even cook my feet. And yet – no one likes me… to all of them I am just a pig, a hog. Why is that?’
“The cow thought it over a bit and then said, ‘Perhaps it’s because I give milk while I am still alive.’”
Arthur Ashe, a prominent African-American tennis player who is well-remembered for his efforts to further social causes, said: “From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.” British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said the same thing: “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
Alice R. Pratt also said, “An ungiving person does not live; he breathes, he eats, he sleeps, he gratifies his needs, but only exists until he has discovered the interwoven secret of life, giving of oneself. True giving is done without the slightest trace of expecting to receive. It is only in giving that we ever receive? Perhaps in giving of oneself there is enough taken away to have room to receive.”
There was this very conscientious Christian lady who was born to a wealthy family. At one time, during a Sunday school in the church, she spoke and looked back on her childhood in a big city.
“On Sunday afternoon, it was a favorite charity of these superior Christians to make the rounds of the cells at the police station. The men in particular did this. They visited the week-end drunks, lectured them, forced them to take the pledge, and then bailed them out of jail so they would be back to work on Monday.
“These do-gooders were smugly respectable, very visibly in a different moral category from those to whom they gave. They had one fault: they never gave themselves. When we stoop and give from on high, even out of the sense of Christian duty, but we never give ourselves, our giving is incomplete. No gift is complete unless we ourselves are in it.”
Christians give because the Bible tells them to. Sir Wilfred T. Grinfelt talks on the subject when he said: “The service we render to others is really the rent we pay for our room on this earth. It is obvious that man is himself a traveler: that the purpose of this world is not ‘to have and to hold’ but ‘to give and serve.’”
William Penn said it best: “I expect to pass through life but once. If, therefore, there can be kindness I can show, or any good things I can do to any fellow human being, let me do it now, and not deter it or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.”
There are many wealthy people who give money to charitable institutions and organizations. When William Bloomberg, a business news entrepreneur, donated US$45 million to Johns Hopkins University, he was quoted as saying: ‘There are lots of young men and women we would love to have as students, the Nobel Prize winners, the Lasker Award winners of the future. It would be a sin if society is deprived of the fruits of their work down the road because those of us, today, who could have helped, didn’t.”
When you give, give and don’t expect something in return. In The Light in the Heart, Roy T. Bennet wrote: “Help others without any reason and give without the expectation of receiving anything in return.”
“When we give freely,” wrote Gina Lake in What About Now?: Reminders for Being in the Moment, “we feel full and complete; when we withhold, we feel small, petty, impotent, and lacking. We are meant to learn this great truth, that giving fulfills us, while withholding and trying to get causes us to feel empty and even more needy. This truth runs counter to our programming, which drives us to try to get something from others to fulfill our neediness, only to end up even more needy, grasping, lacking, and unfulfilled.”
There is so much for you when you give. Frances Hodgson Burnett, in A Little Princess, wrote: “If nature has made you for a giver, your hands are born open, and so is your heart; and though there may be times when your hands are empty, your heart is always full, and you can give things out of that – warm things, kind things, sweet things – help and comfort and laughter – and sometimes joy, kind laughter is the best help of all.”
When you give, don’t choose. After all, you also receive something even if you are not deserving. In The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran pointed this out: “You often say ; I would give , but only to the deserving, The trees in your orchard say not so , nor the flocks in your pasture. Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and nights is worthy of all else from you. And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream. See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver , and an instrument of giving. For in truth it is life that gives unto life-while you , who deem yourself a giver , is but a witness.”