SBJ/December 12-18, 2011/Opinion

Joy comes with sharing your resources

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The giving season. It’s a time for counting our blessings and helping those less fortunate. If you are involved with professional sports in today’s world, you are most blessed indeed. People are still paying to attend sporting events, and team values and player salaries continue to escalate.

That is not the case in many other sectors at this time. Given the high unemployment rate and the depth of the ongoing economic challenges for many, worthy charities are under enormous pressure to deliver more services with fewer resources. If ever you have thought about giving something back, now is as critical a time as any in recent memory.

How much should I give?

It’s a thoughtful question and it deserves a thoughtful answer. Of course, on some level, all giving is deeply personal. How much one gives is a derivative of how much one has, what one’s expenses are, what one’s overall financial plan is, and what one earns. But there are certain absolutes.

It is an age-old psychological truism that being generous feels good. Giving to others in meaningful ways produces endorphins that few other behaviors can. As good as it can feel to make money, that feeling pales in comparison to giving it away.

Years ago, I organized a Christmas present giveaway for about 300 elementary school kids in the inner city for then-Boston Celtics captain Dee Brown. These were children who, were it not for Dee, would not have received anything for Christmas. I can attest to the fact that there is something holy and transformative about buying and then individually wrapping 300 gifts that mean the difference between kids having a Christmas or not having one. The look in their eyes as they paraded one by one onto the auditorium stage to receive their present from Dee dressed as Santa Claus brought tears to my eyes then and has never left me. I can only imagine how much it meant to Dee. For less than $5,000, he made 300 families happy that Christmas. How much better could you spend five grand?

Often we become paralyzed by the enormity of the problems of poverty, hunger and homelessness. They are not unsolvable problems. Solving hunger isn’t a supply problem; it’s a distribution problem. The food we throw out every year in the U.S. could feed almost any country in Africa — and certainly all the hungry people in our own country. And the excess that we accumulate in our closets could clothe an army of homeless people.

Life’s greatest possessions are those that when shared multiply, those that when divided are not diminished. Without question, these are tough economic times, but no one ever became poor by being generous. Investing in the lives and well-being of others pays dividends in ways that last a lifetime and, even more importantly, enrich our lives with great meaning.

Whether you make $50,000 a year or $20 million, philanthropy should always be part of your budget. Why should the rich only get to experience the endorphins giving produces?

If you are lucky enough to be both rich and famous, your giving may induce many others to give to and support your cause. Never think that your fame exempts you from the joy of giving. It is the opposite; it allows you to double and triple your gifts.

But just as the rich cannot have others volunteer to get sick for them, you cannot experience the good feelings giving produces if others give and you don’t.

How much should I give?

The true answer lies in how good you want to feel.

Marc Pollick (mpollick@givingback.org) is president and founder of The Giving Back Fund, a national public charity that helps athletes, entertainers and others establish and maintain charitable foundations and programs.


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