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To have and to give

For four years, I’d made incessant efforts to study abroad. When I finally managed to raise the funding for it, my happiness knew no bounds. I was brimming with so much joy, I was afraid I’d be robbed of it. About the same time, my mother mentioned that our maid had trouble funding her daughter’s education. So, I decided to donate some money to her out of mere goodwill. Somehow, this deed calmed my jitters. I stopped worrying I’d be robbed of my happiness. Instead, I was glad I’d shared it.

More often than not, we tend to believe humans are innately selfish and are bound to think about themselves first. This might be true to an extent. After all, I’ve only ever given when I’ve had something in excess. Psychologist Abigail Marsh too wanted to understand this nature. In her Ted Talk Why some people are more altruistic than others, she explores the motivation behind altruism and philanthropy. She says: “As societies become wealthier and better off, people seem to turn their focus of attention outward, and as a result, all kinds of altruism towards strangers increases, from volunteering to charitable donations and even altruistic kidney donations.”

It’s not very far from the concept of Maslow’s Pyramid of Hierarchy, is it? We find the need to satisfy our most basic physical, emotional and intellectual needs first. Often, it’s only then that we move on to satisfy our spiritual needs. And what’s a better way to get to the spiritual level than to help another lead a better life? This was true of me. When my dream of studying abroad finally came true, I felt like it was my turn to give something. And so, I chose to help another girl who might one day build her own dreams and try to make them come true.

Although, not everyone needs an excess to give to the society. Take the protagonist of the novel The Book Thief, for instance. The little girl is from a German family of meagre means, living in a war-ridden Nazi-Germany. Despite the dire conditions, Liesel remains a kind and giving soul. In one instance, she hands out bread to Jewish slaves on the streets at the risk of being flogged for it by the Nazi soldiers!

Of course, not all of us can be as altruistic as Liesel. But many of us do partake in philanthropic deeds now and then. Increasingly, there are several people who donate their time, money or other valuables to brighten up the lives of those less fortunate. From animal protection to education for girls, from cancer research to autistic children’s care, there’s an array of causes people donate towards.

It’s heartwarming to see people go out of their way to make a difference in another’s life. Their efforts are a mark of the humanity inherent in many.


Take IT professional Nishkala Chandrashekhar, for instance. She makes time to teach autistic children, just so she can help improve their quality of life. Ask her what brought this on and she says, “I was witness to the daily struggles of my friend’s neighbours–a couple with an autistic child. It made me realise that autistic children needn’t be treated differently by the society. They simply need a different kind of support.” For Nishkala, one such experience was all it took to trigger a philanthropic drive in her. Something within her stirred awake upon observing the struggles of an autistic child and she decided to serve the cause.

For some, it’s personal. Shankar Subramanian is a soft skills trainer, whose mother used to volunteer for Multiple Sclerosis Society of India (MSSI), before she was diagnosed with cancer. When his mother could no longer invest herself in the cause as she once used to, Shankar chose to step in for her and support MSSI in his own way. He now runs Thank God It’s Saturday (TGIS), a community of photographers who donate some of their shots to raise money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society of India every year.

It’s heartwarming to see people go out of their way to make a difference in another’s life. Their efforts are a mark of the humanity inherent in many. K Meera, who works as the principal of a residential school for visually-impaired girls in Mysuru, has probably seen enough examples to prove this. She shares, “We are very conscious of the oil used in the food we serve our kids. Yet, this doesn’t deter our benefactors. Instead of risking a catering order, they cook large amounts of food themselves.”

It seems to me, we’re surrounded by generous people. Amongst us are people who can afford to simply donate a catering order and be done with it. Yet, they choose to cook hygienic food for hundreds of blind children. Amongst us are photographers who can earn a fair amount by selling their work. Yet, they choose to donate great snaps to raise funding for awareness on debilitating diseases. Amongst us are working professionals who barely have time to breathe, yet, make the time to try and ease the lives of autistic kids.

Perhaps, we want to fix this messy world. Maybe, we’re grateful for the things we have and want to give to those less fortunate. Perhaps, it makes us happy to make those in need happy. Maybe we’re growing restless, seeing others in pain. Whatever the reason, it comforts me to know we’re indeed capable of making the world a more humane place to live in.

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