What I discovered this week about the real meaning of giving

As a child—after my parents climbed out of poverty—I took Christmas for granted and expected a huge pile of wrapped gifts under the tree for me and my cousins the morning of December 25. And as I eagerly tore into the gifts revealing the latest popular toys and gadgets, I never asked what I had done to deserve them.

Decades later, as I reflect, I don’t think reluctantly dragging a trash can to the curb—rare for me as a child—or doing a half-ass job cutting the lawn or the one time I weeded my mother’s flower garden counts. And I never washed the dishes or helped clean the house. It was as if my parents had elected themselves to be my slaves and servants.

Then when I was 15 and wanted a part-time job washing dishes in a coffee shop, my father argued with me to stay home; focus on school, and he would raise my allowance. I refused and took the job until I graduated from high school and joined the U.S. Marines.


searched “why give” to find this video with 234 views.

Digging deeper into my memory from kindergarten to twelfth grade, I wasn’t a trouble maker but I was far from being a model student. The fact that I didn’t pay much attention in classes; do most of the homework or read the assignments was not the fault of the teachers, which seems to be the popular consensus these days. That was my fault.

And now that I’m much older and look back with a different perspective, I know that I did not do much as a child to earn the Christmas gifts my parents lavished on me. In fact, I was happier when we lived in poverty—without a TV—and I used my imagination to make up for the missing toys and latest fashionable clothing.

I think a perfect example of the true meaning of giving should be to help someone like this story I read from the Huffington Post about a radio host who surprised an 89-year-old grandmother with a major home renovation.

This grandmother—who was the caregiver for a husband with Parkinson’s Disease—was 70 when her adult daughter was murdered, but she didn’t hesitate to sacrifice and take in her grandchildren to raise them. The story is worth reading even if you are a Scrooge.

Now that I’ve mentioned Scrooge, in Charles Dickens’ 1843 novel A Christmas Carol, the theme was for people to recognize the plight of those whom the Industrial Revolution had displaced and driven into poverty, and the obligation of society to provide for them humanely—not much different from today when you think about the fifty million who live in poverty in the United States. Dickens did not suggest in any way that we should shower children with toys and gadgets because it makes them happy for a moment.

And there’s always The Gift of the Magi by O Henry—one of my favorites. The main theme of this short story is sacrifice out of love. The two characters give to each other not objects, but love.

That led me to ask: Do people really care about giving? To find out, I searched YouTube for “examples of the true meaning of giving”, and couldn’t find one popular video. Then I searched “giving to those who deserve it” and had the same results.

Not willing to give up, I finally discovered a popular YouTube video when I searched “giving to charities”.  This video was titled Do Not Give or Donate to Charities, but don’t judge the video from its title because Elliot makes sense.


more than 110,000 views

Is it possible that giving help to those who deserve it is not valued in America but giving toys and gadgets to children who have done little to nothing to earn them is? If my experience as a child counts, the answer might be yes.

For those who believe in giving to those who deserve help, here’s a list at Charity Navigator.org of the 10 highest rated charities with the lowest CEO pay.

“The leaders of these 10 organizations run highly-rated charities, yet they earn far less than the average compensation of $150,000 reported by the over 7,000 charities rated by Charity Navigator.”

Then there is this list at Charity Navigator of the 10 highest paid CEO’s at the lowest-rated charities, and four on that list were linked to lawyers—no surprise there.

Who gives the most? (NPEngage!)

Generation Y, age 18 – 32, gave 11% of total

Generation X, age 33 – 48, gave 20%

Baby Boomers, age 49 – 67, gave 43%

Matures, age 68+ gave 26%

The Atlantic.com reports on Why the Rich Don’t Give to Charities: “One of the most surprising, and perhaps confounding, facts of charity in America is that the people who can least afford to give are the ones who donate the greatest percentage of their income.”

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran and English-journalism teacher.

His latest novel is the award winning Running with the Enemy that started life as a memoir and then became a fictional suspense thriller. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

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3 thoughts on “What I discovered this week about the real meaning of giving

  1. We give too much and expect too little of our kids … but in the end, each generation is responsible for itself. You can only blame it on your parents for so many years. After that, it’s on you. I didn’t study hard. I didn’t have to. Probably neither did you. But we made up for it in years to come. I’ve put more hours into learning as an adult, post-college than I did in all 18 years of school combined. Bet you did too. Because after college, I started studying things I wanted — or needed — to know, not what was on a curriculum. I hope it will happen the same way for the kids. But it’s up to them.

    As for giving, poverty has a restraining/limiting effect on charity. I tend to not give to organizations. I give to people who need what I have to give which is often not money, but things — clothing, dishes, appliances, books — or information and assistance with computers or bureaucracy. We are cash poor, but rich in experience and “stuff.” Hopefully, it’s enough!

    • “We give too much and expect too little of our kids”

      I agree. I find this is true for the average parent in the US but there are—for want of better words—tiger parents. For instance, Amy Chua, who wrote “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”, the memoir that created a firestorm of protest and support for her style of parenting—a style very close to my wife’s parenting style. The fact that there were voices supporting Amy Chua says that all is not lost.

      And yes, you are right. Once the child becomes an adult they are responsible for who they are, how they live, etc. Although some do blame their flaws on their parents, they are wrong to do so. Once an adult, they have the option to change behavior and lifestyle.

      And it seems many Millennials, the children of the Baby Boomers, are doing just that as they raise their own children. Curious, a few months ago, I wanted to see if there had been any studies on Millennial parenting styles and discovered that the average Millennial parent is not raising their children the way they were raised but want their children to experience failure and to work harder in school. It seems the average Millennial is not obsessed with the self-esteem of their children as the average Boomer parent who raised them was. This can only be a good thing.

      For those of us who give, we all give in our own way. For instance, I read about one man who offered to teach one homeless man who had lost his job (during Bush’s 2007-08 recession) a new skill or a $100. The homeless man accepted the new skill and said no to the $100, and that led to him learning how to program apps for smart phones. Now he has an app for sale for .99 cents and plans to use the money he earns from that to further his education and help get him off the streets and back to work.

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