Photo by Andrew Moca on Unsplash

Speaking Out: In giving we will receive

By  Jacob Stocking, Youth Speak News
  • February 10, 2021

The typical image of poverty is often presented to us when we walk down a busy street. We see a man or woman holding a coffee cup, baseball cap or some other vessel to receive the pocket change of passers-by. 

Most of us will hurry by. Some might give a sad smile or a shake of the head. Others drop a few coins into the cup where their merry jingling often mingles with a croaky “God bless you.”

This sight is so common that it fades into the background, making it easy to miss the presence of God in this individual who petitions our assistance to maintain his or her existence. But in giving to these destitute men and women, we take the opportunity God has placed before us to practise charity.  

If an infinite number of similar opportunities exist in our world, why is it still difficult to observe charitable giving? A lack of convenience or money is often cited as a justification. Although it can often feel like we lose something by giving our hard-earned money away, studies have shown that we receive something less tangible, but rich, in return. 

In a research paper published by the Public Library of Science, Lara Aknin of Simon Fraser University and her colleagues found that evidence of self-sacrificing charitable behaviour appears as early as the age of two. After several trials, this team based out of Burnaby, B.C., concluded that “the emotional benefits of this form of giving may support such (prosocial) behaviour despite its costs.”

According to Dr. Steven Post, professor of preventive medicine at Stonybrook University in Long Island, N.Y., these benefits — often described as “giver’s glow” — stem from the release of powerful chemicals in the brain. In an interview with Laura Seago on the “Like Mind, Like Body” podcast, he says performing charitable acts inspire “releases of endorphins... there’s oxytocin which is the hormone of tranquility... so there are all kinds of benefits.”

Knowing that acts of charity benefit both the benefactor and beneficiary, how can we determine the best ways to complete these acts? St. Thomas Aquinas wrote in his seminal theological paper Quaestiones disputatae: De caritate that “charity, by which God and neighbour are loved, is the most perfect friendship.” In giving we certainly receive, creating a mutually beneficial relationship between us and those to whom we give.

When we give by monetary means, we also give recognition. Regardless of the amount, our contribution shows acknowledgment of the societal issue we are addressing, be it homelessness or environmental injustice, or any other one of the many issues plaguing humanity.  

Of course, when it comes to monetary acts of charity, the million-dollar question is: how much? Leviticus 27:30 states “a tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain or fruit, is the Lord’s, and is holy.” This refers to the concept of tithing.

Donating 10 per cent of your earnings is certainly not feasible for everyone. Instead, every person must look at their circumstance and determine how much they can give. In some cases, that may even be... nothing. 

Small actions can go a long way. Keep a small purse with extra change and take from it only when you see a homeless person on the street. If you cannot give money, making eye contact can provide the recognition that these people are God’s children. As the saying goes, every little bit counts. 

(Stocking, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Michael Power-St. Joseph High School in Etobicoke, Ont.)

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