Is it just me, or did you find the recent article in Parade Magazine about the ‘Most Generous Americans’ offensive also? If you recall, in the past week or two they ran a spread about how many millions of dollars some very well known celebrities donate to charity. Actually, I think it’s great that ‘well known celebrities’ give a lot of money to causes other than themselves. Helps a good number of people, and sets an example for others. Nothing wrong with that. They ought to be applauded. And believe me, they are. I don’t have the article in front of me, but I think Oprah Winfrey gave the most, followed by people like Barbra Streisand, Brad and Angelina, Mel Gibson, Paul Newman and others. Some of these people I like, and some I don’t, but that is not the issue. The issue is that they have been celebrated as “The Most Generous Americans”.
Now, giving is giving, but let’s not pretend that giving and generosity necessarily equate. These people are so unfathomably rich, have so many millions of dollars, that, not only do they not ever even see the money that goes out in their names, but they also do not even feel an impact on their life style or personal finances from having given it. Much of it is given for tax purposes to actually improve their financial standing, and the adoration and publicity they receive from the giving actually allows them to continue making even more money than they would have had they not made the donations. It’s not like they struggle over balancing their checkbook, trying to figure out how they can give some money to a worthy cause, and still make ends meet. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling into question anybody’s motives, I’m simply stating the obvious. Why someone gives is his or her own business, and it is not to be judged. No one knows another’s heart, only their actions.
The most generous Americans are actually people you have, most likely, never even heard of. They are not celebrated for their generosity, and they are not lauded for their choice of boutique causes. They are the struggling family that gives 10% of a meager paycheck to help an Appalachian community survive a devastated economy. They are the church janitor who takes a two week leave of absence from his employment to go down to Louisiana and help rebuild housing for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. They are the bohemian young people in the City who struggle to pay their rent, but buy coffee for the homeless guy on the corner. They are the career businessperson who leaves a profitable job, and lifestyle, to live in less-than-desirable circumstances in an underdeveloped country to assist the poor with drilling wells, planting food or establishing education. They are the women who give their time to run the thrift shops that benefit the most needy families in any given community. They are the everyday people who struggle to get by, and still give of what they have to someone who has even less than they do. They are the guy that gives his only coat to someone else who’s cold and doesn’t have one.
These are the Most Generous Americans.
Do not be deluded by the proclamations of the Parade Magazines of the world.
He who has everything, and gives much, has given a little.
He who has little, and gives a little, has given a lot.
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