It is so reassuring to have a person like Mr. Abdul Sattar Edhi among us. Founder of Edhi Welfare Network, for many years this network has been able to help many desperate in need. Our society would surely be less humane without selfless people like him and his family who fully supports him.
Not many people can take the cause of alleviating suffering humanity, and serve so dedicatedly. Most remain confined to countable incidences of general welfare. Are we doing enough for the society in which we reside?
The decay in the values of society has bought us to the point where the definition of a good citizen appears to be a person who is not a criminal of some sort. A society has achieved something if it produces simple ordinary citizens and no criminals. A society attains a higher form of humanity when there are people who serve others without a selfish reason. They represent the best of all. Why?
For most, everyday life is a major time sucker. It keeps one so much engaged. Example? Ask a colleague or friend, who you can trust, if he or she is a part of any welfare organisation. Find out why not and the most probable reason may be that one has so many problems of own that it is difficult to think of devoting time to any thing else. Do not be surprised if that person counts to you a list of so many other things that cannot be done because of lack of time!
Compared to this lack of time, there is no dearth of social causes, starting from issues in health, education, and judiciary, to countless Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) each with at least one core cause of its own. So, what else is a reason for not taking up a social cause?
May be as individuals we do not have the kind of resources required to do anything significant for the causes we believe in. May be there is no leadership we can trust to follow. May be we believe that the government should be looking after these issues, as individuals there is little that we can do. May be our thinking is that we pay taxes to government to take care of these issue. May be our thinking is that as individuals we do not owe it to any body. Its not an obligation on us to pay back to the community we live in. May be we realise how difficult it is to do something for others without being paid for it. May be our learning of a cause is not complete. May be we are downright selfish in believing that who helped us when we needed it? So why should we do it for others?
In this age, it is not just the individuals who are constrained. The factors above in a slightly different language also feature in management thinking. There are many corporate mission statements that speak of a vision of a ‘good corporate citizens’, mostly without being specific how such objective would be achieved?
There is perhaps no problem in using corporate citizen initiatives as a marketing tool, unless they are an obvious white wash. Let us welcome the corporates who publicise constructing a school by earmarking a portion of sale proceeds. Let us have another one to construct a hospital and maintain it. Something is better than nothing.
Coming back to the main issue, is it right to assume that the above psyche make individuals and corporates part of a problem, not a part of the solution? What can we do to change it?
Better, light a candle than curse darkness. Here are the three stages of generosity:
1. Thought. A thought is a source of action. It is a thought that triggers the other two elements of ‘personal effort’ and ‘financial sacrifice’. Thoughts however do not happen in vacuum. Awareness is essential for a thought to occur. What we need at an individual level is a cause that we can relate to. It may be something that we come across everyday in our life.
Knowledge of most of us about the society we live in is clearly inadequate. Our education institutions, school or college, teachers or students alike, narrowly focus on completing a book or course contents, gain good marks and get over with education at the earliest. Such misplaced education emphasis will never be a source for gently bringing into our lives the issues in a society. How many schools arrange a project to collect warm clothing in winters for less fortunate members of the society? How many go to a suburb locality and clean it? Do we arrange trips to an orphanage or to a place where children with a physical handicap live? How many collect donations for a hospital? Without such activities and the resultant awareness, how can our school goers will ever own a cause or contribute?
Sure, schools cannot teach everything. In the same breath, our education system and those related to it should not ignore this important form of learning. Parents need to take their share of responsibility and forward such learning to which good community system supporting the giant social system is a solution.
To feel a sense of belonging to the society we live in, we do not need a Master degree. Mr. Edhi never got an academic Masters in sociology that others have, but he returned to the society much more than possibly all such Masters combined.
2. Personal Effort. Graduation of an individual thought process results in search of an expression of generosity. If nothing else, it is supports a personal effort, not a mere drawing room talk (on second thoughts, even that is welcome!).
Generosity is not limited to giving something in terms of money, which is not the whole truth. The simply means a thought and an effort. Nothing is possible without a personal effort. Even learning about a cause is a personal effort and a generosity because you are giving up your convenience, priorities, and your time.
You can also contribute through your person or expertise. For example, one colleague donates blood regularly. A doctor may not charge deserving patients a full fee. A lawyer may get justice to people who cannot afford it. In a way, there is scope in every profession and almost every position to help those who deserve it.
If that is not possible, how about writing something about the cause that you hold dear. You can write a letter to those concerned, even if that does not yield anything. At least, you have done your bit.
3. Financial Benevolence. It is tempting to make one’s financial situation an alibi for not sparing a thought for financial benevolence. If that were true, you would find ‘all’ rich to be the most philanthropist. The reality is that less affluent among us are more willing to a financial sacrifice. Possibly, because they are located perilously close to the suffering and the cause. However, should that be a reason for no benevolence for those to whom Providence is kind? Or, is it because of human limitation of forgetting. Your memory goes short when your circumstances change. Nobody likes to remember bad personal times, what to talk of time others are having facing it?
Conclusion: Sacrifice is the essence of generosity. Generosity is giving up your own conveniences. It is not in giving what is leftover. It is not even about recognition. Limitations, alibis, excuses are for the weak ones. A society’s expectation of fortunate ones is rightly more. Our concept of generosity needs to go beyond our action of reaching for our wallets when a beggar knocks at our car window at a traffic signal!°
Mr. Altaf Noor Ali is the Managing Consultant of Career Consulting Clinic. Readers can contact him at email@example.com
Editor's note: From time to time, we will publish articles from local contributors which although may not have a direct relevance to our profession, but which carry a good message and help us to be better persons.