Charity. It's often referenced in the form of "I don't need your charity." Nowadays we use terms like "giving," "volunteer," or "donate" when it comes to helping others and alleviating the problems of the world. But all those things are what charity is, plus so much more.
Today is the International Day of Charity. The UN chose this day as it's the anniversary of the death of Mother Teresa. She founded and progressed the Missionaries of Charity which started in India and expanded to several other countries. The Missionaries of Charity became known for helping the sick, impoverished, and homeless. The UN wanted to honor not only Mother Teresa's work and life but also recognize the role charity plays in alleviating humanitarian crises and human suffering.
So with this day, we recognize what charity does and five ways you can take part.
Charity is fascinating because not only does it help the people in need, but it helps the individual who carries it out. When you choose to help others whether it's in the form of donating or volunteering, it affects your physical and mental health. It can reduce stress, anger, and anxiety. When you are charitable, it lifts your spirits and you start to feel better about yourself and the world in which you live. Helping others heals your soul.
If you volunteer with others, it boosts social connection and bonding. Working with people to help others can positively affect your mental health. Not to mention, it assists in creating societies that are more resilient and equal.
Most obviously what charity does is alleviate or prevent crises in the world. Depending on what kind of charity you partake in, it can lift people out of poverty; provide aid after disasters; supplement health care, education, housing; or provide for emotional or spiritual needs. There are also charities dedicated in part or whole to advocacy for a particular people group or worldview.
A good working definition of 'charity' is an organization that gives not-for-profit, for the sake of bettering lives. We also each can act charitably with our own lives.
Volunteering is something that looks different depending on where you live, your personality, and your time. You can volunteer on a regular basis with a local nonprofit, seasonally to help them maintain their property, and/or serve at the nonprofit's events. You can also volunteer to go on humanitarian trips to impoverished communities or places that need assistance after disasters. You can volunteer to work remotely for nonprofits that need help with their website, being ambassadors, or with photography. At Jesus' Economy, we rely on volunteers to run every aspect and everything is done remotely making it easier for you.
Donating is important. However, donating responsibly is key. First, make sure the charity you're donating to is legitimate and reports regularly on their efforts. And second, do research to find out how your donation is being used: especially look at how much of your donation goes toward marketing, fundraising, and administrative salaries versus how much goes to the field where the organization serves. (This is slightly different for advocacy groups since 'the field' in that instance is 'awareness goals.')
You can even choose a charity with a '100% model,' such as Jesus’ Economy, where every dollar goes precisely where you designate. That way you know exactly how the money is being spent. In your research, you can look up government-submitted charity reports using Charity Navigator and many nonprofits also participate in the transparency program of GuideStar. (There are more tips on evaluating charities in the book Jesus' Economy.)
Shopping fair trade can be done in a variety of ways. It can be as simple as shopping fair trade sites, such as the Fair Trade Shop of Jesus' Economy. Or you can perform research to find out what items you can substitute into your day-to-day shopping that meet fair trade standards.
Using AmazonSmile is a small, but easy, way to help. You simply choose which charitable organization you want to help and every time you buy eligible stuff on Amazon, 0.5% of your purchase goes toward the organization you select. You just have to make sure you're shopping through smile.amazon.com. (Here's how to select Jesus' Economy on Amazon Smile. It only takes two minutes.)
Another aspect you can do is help an individual on your own time. Whether it's someone you know who needs their car fixed, or could use a free babysitter so they can go to work, or needs you to use that specialized skill you have to help them out, there are many ways to be charitable. It could also be someone you don't know, but they've expressed a need. (There are tips on how churches, families, and individuals can volunteer their time personally and give charitably in sustainable ways in the book Jesus' Economy.)
Being charitable doesn't have to be hard and it doesn't have to be complicated. It can be tailored to your lifestyle and passions. Helping others feeds your soul and positively affects your mental health. So on this International Day of Charity, find something you're passionate about and look for ways you can get involved. You'll be surprised how much your life changes after you start being charitable.
Go deeper into this subject with Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. With simple, everyday choices you can make the world a better place. Learn how to live Jesus' economy, the currency of love.