Philanthropy and Giving

In a couple of books I have been enjoying (Walden and Anna Karenina) benevolence is looked at with question or down right negativity.
In Walden, Thoreau writes about ‘goodness tainted’. He also states,

“If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the constant design of doing me good, I would run for my life, as from that dry and parching wind of the African deserts”.

What do I do with that? Perhaps I am one of those people he is running away from. We like to ‘help’

When a gift is given, too many times there is an exchange. “I give you money and you give me your self-respect.” Of course, it would never be put so blatantly in words but is far too commonplace in action.

I met a farmer about a month ago who talked about getting government assistance if they were in trouble. He said, “We farmers are a proud lot. We would rather starve to death than get help from the government.” Granted, the man was a bit of an anarchist and recommended someone who could fashion an illegal gun for me rather than waiting to get my license. That is another issue. Was it really pride he is speaking about or self-respect.
Giving your own self-respect over to the gift-giver is a common part of receiving a gift. I have witnessed it so many times. We have all seen it. The spotlight is on the great and almighty gift-giver. The recipient bows their head acknowledging and giving gratitude, honour and their own self- respect to the gift-giver. Everyone applauds the gift-giver. Later, when the recipient has no self-respect to provide for their own needs in the future they are seen as lazy and unworthy of the original gift. Could this be part of what is going on in Africa?
Once a person, or people, has given over too much of their selfrespect they are robbed of a way to look after themselves and become dependant on the gift-giver or other gift givers to continue to provide for them.
I have also seen it done right. Most of the time the gift is never even asked for. The recipient bows their head acknowledging and giving gratitude, honour and their own self-respect to the gift-giver. The gift-giver raises the head of the recipient and returns the honour and self-respect. They acknowledge, with full hearts, the worthiness of the recipient. The honour and self-respect seem to multiply. It is enough for both the giver and the recipient. Then it is enough for all who witness.
Sometimes the gift-giver remains anonymous and all this is done in ways you can feel the spirit of it but not see it. Like the wind that excites and wakens you or the rays of the sun that warms deeply. The gift continues.
Is this what it means when at least one wise book says that we can do all sorts of great things but if we don’t have love it is nothing. Is this why some great givers in history become so etched in our minds. Because of their love? I mean if you love someone how could you rob them of something so essential as self-respect.
Dang I probably really sound like a hippy now. Anyway, lots more thinking to do in this area. Where is my heart when I give? Am I taking something in the process that I should be returning? So much more to think about so that I can do better. Well, this is a beginning. What fun.

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