A Christian Science perspective.
That beautiful time of year is coming again: the time of giving. It starts with the gratitude and time spent with family and friends during Thanksgiving, and follows through to the December holiday season.
For some reason, however, our society has distilled the meaning of philanthropy into giving financially. It now seems to mean that in order to give, we need to write a check. Being from California's Silicon Valley, I've sometimes heard people say they can't wait to make it big from their next venture. Then, they promise, they'll start giving back to their communities in a major way.
Donating money is certainly not the only or most important way of giving. And we don't have to wait on money in order to be able to give right now. In fact, the root of the word philanthropy means "love of people," or "love of humankind." What this means is that philanthropy can be a full-time calling for each one of us right now.
I run a website that helps people give of themselves, both their money and volunteer time, so I'm acutely aware of these issues. But one of the thoughts that has come to me is that my job in philanthropy doesn't start at 9 a.m. and end at 5 p.m. In fact, every moment can be an opportunity to care for, love, and cherish a fellow human being. One of my favorite quotations from the Bible that has helped guide me in this endeavor is "Be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren" (I Pet. 3:8).
Each day I pray and make a divinely inspired to-do list with which I hope to carry out God's purpose for me. The list might range from cultivating a large corporate partnership to running an errand to the dry cleaners.
Even when I'm particularly busy, I've found that there are always opportunities to love. God doesn't program us to just get through life and get things done. Instead, each activity, each task, is actually an experience of loving. And in so doing, we also honor God, who is Love. That is the true spirit of philanthropy.
Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science, made a statement that to me holds up a standard for living: "A real Christian Scientist is a marvel, a miracle in the universe.... With selfless love, he inscribes on the heart of humanity and transcribes on the page of reality the living, palpable presence – the might and majesty! – of goodness. He lives for all mankind, and honors his creator" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896," p. 294). Rushing through tasks, it's easy to miss valuable opportunities to love. Philanthropy exists everywhere.
With the season of giving upon us, we can each strive to care more sincerely for each one of God's children. As the Bible counsels, "Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity [love]" (I Pet. 5:14). By our simple interaction and communication with each person, every moment, we can all be philanthropists right now. Love doesn't have to wait.