Most religious and cultural traditions have sayings with regard to charity. And, they’re all terrific!
One of my favorites has to do with the best type of charity being to help one help oneself to no longer need charity.
I’ve always loved the quote, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” (often attributed to Lao Tsu but nowhere to be found in his seminal work, the Tao Te Ching).
Of course, in no way does this mean there are not times when it’s necessary (not to mention, the right thing to do) to simply give one some immediate substance and/or a few dollars to help them survive.
However, it’s been proven that, in the end, helping someone to help themselves benefits that person much more, as well as those whose lives they currently and will eventually touch.
I just finished (finally) reading Banker to the Poor, by Professor Muhammad Yunus. The 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh had an idea some thirty years ago: to help those who were extremely impoverished – “the poorest of the poor” – and kept down by certain local customs and government regulations, and who lived lives of absolute desperation, to actually make a living for themselves by going into business for themselves; to make a life for themselves through the free enterprise system. WOW!
What he had to do, who he had to fight and how he did this successfully makes for a story that is thrilling, inspiring and enlightening. And, his efforts, his obsession, spurned an entire movement of groups and organizations that would help the much less fortunate in the same way – teaching them to fish.
We can all do it. As you research micro-lending more and more, you’ll discover that with very little money you can have a dramatic effect on peoples’ lives — on them and their progeny who, because of you, might never have to know the type of insane poverty as did their parents.
In other words, you can teach a lot of people how to fish.