Amplify Blog

Insights and ideas directly from New Profit

December 20, 2019

NP2019tues-TheDangerBooth-184The following is an original post by Alex Alvanos, an Associate Partner on New Profit's Portfolio Performance and Support team. 

Despite how we often talk about it, charity is not about helping. It's not about writing checks or donating, though your donations change lives. It's not about nonprofit organizations, though they are doing the heartfelt work of humanity. It's not about tax write-offs, service days, coat drives, or the sound of jingle bells near the red buckets around the holidays. It's not about impact numbers or budget to program ratios. No, charity is about something deeper and much more eternal, and in these times it has grown dim. 

There's talk of who is patriotic, who should be able to step across borders, who takes advantage of government programs, and who is lazy, weak, or dirty. There's talk of who is the enemy, who is the person you can't trust, and who looks or talks differently. We are living in division and pain, but healing is harder than the donate button you press or the money you put in the basket. 
Charity is love. Not the honeymoon phase kind of love, or the innate love a parent can have for their child. This is the kind of love you work for. The kind of love that makes you look the person you see as "other" right in the mirror and realize it is really you looking back. That the otherism, the worry, the insecurity, the "I earned this," or the "you're not from here," or "I had it hard too" are misplaced pain — and charity is part of the healing. 
True charity is a challenge to yourself, every day, to break down the misconceptions, the false notions of "the other" as someone either to fear or to help and to replace those thoughts with love. Love for yourself, and to see someone else as yourself, too. To see someone not as homeless, but yourself as someone who could have ended up on the street. To see someone not as part of a dangerous gang, but as someone looking for the same love and acceptance you or I seek. To see someone not as a foreigner trying to steal a job, but as someone trying to provide for their family just like you or me. 
Living charity as love is not an easy road. It's not something that you can do just once or twice a year. It's not so much a transfer of wealth, but a transformation of self. 
Charity as love is watching the news or listening to conversations and hearing the steady trickle of anger or fear and reminding yourself and those around you of the humanity of "the other," and putting yourself and them on the same path in life. It is examining other parts of your life — your business, your work, your home, your relationships — and bringing love into your conversations, into your balance sheets and earnings reports, into your daily routine. 
Charity as love is exploring your own vulnerable nature, the pain you hold, the hardship you face, and learning to love yourself every day. Because, as an old saying goes: If you want love in the world you must have love in your country, and if you want love in your country you must have love in your home, and if you want love in your home you must have love in your heart. 
So let us ask ourselves now and for the year ahead not what is the least we can do, but instead the most. And let us live charity as love — both the beauty and struggle — every day. 


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