“NO ONE HAS EVER BECOME POOR BY GIVING”

Where do you begin when you have limited availability of word count but so much to say about charity – it’s of central importance to a healthy society, what it means to me, the future of philanthropy, and so on. As some of you who know me may attest, I am not short of an opinion or two, and there is no topic more guaranteed to see me wax lyrical than this – charity, what is it and why it matters. So, I thought I’d start with something personal – a tribute to my parents. I have 3 children; and when I first became a mother, I began a process of thinking about the way I had been brought up, and the values that my parents had instilled in me. As any parent will know, this process is not necessarily one that you undertake consciously – you find that certain values and habits, ones that you didn’t know you had, start bubbling up to the surface. 

Some of my earliest memories relate to times that my parents spoke to me or – even better …………. showed me what it meant to be privileged and to fulfill responsibilities. I remember the day when my mom took me to a nursing home, explaining me why the people, I met there matter. And relating them to people I knew, friends, aunts, uncles, and neighbors. Why no society can be healthy unless we take other people  and their lives seriously. Without my realizing it, what my parents were doing was instilling in me a lifelong habit to put charity at the heart of our lives.That’s why I, being a registered nurse, served people and now at Patient Benefit Foundation we are implementing those beliefs, especially during the pandemic of Covid-19.  

It goes without saying that these are not unique nor new beliefs. Charities have been actively supported in United States since the very beginning – infact it reveals a society that has embedded a commitment to charity at the heart of what binds us together. The giving of both time and money is instilled in our children in this country as a habit at a very young age. Some of the activities at school levels are like a tip of the iceberg…such as cake sales, fun runs, washing a neighbor’s car for a donation, even simply having a monthly standing order for a service or item – all largely unseen, but all priceless acts of charity. 

At the same time lets also talk about “Effective Altruism” in charity which is known as an emerging movement during these pandemic trying times. Not content with merely making the world a better place, it is adherent to use talents and resources to make the biggest possible positive difference to the world. Thinking about which fields offer the most positive impact for our time and money is still in its infancy, but with more effective altruist’s research, one can see progress. In general, where human welfare is concerned, we will achieve more if we help those in need, which again leads us to an important question; of how we ought to choose between areas of philanthropy? Some choices are relatively easy, and others are much more complex. But the choice between say, helping the needy directly is always a pivot point for many.  

In the times of global pandemic “Health and Safety” are objective reasons for thinking we may be able to do more good in one philanthropic area than in another. Suppose your local library is seeking funds to build a new wing for better reading. They asked you for a donation for that purpose. Let’s say that you could afford to give $5000. At the same time, you are asked to donate to an organization seeking to take care of patients with no health insurance, trying to reduce financial burden of patients who can’t afford medical treatment and are forced to live in pain. Given this choice, where would your $5000 do the most good? Which expenditure is likely to lead to the bigger improvement in the lives of those affected by it? 

With this spirit of charity comes a responsibility on the part of those of you who channel the generosity into action. The charitable sector must maintain the trust of those who support it and we are working hard at Patient Benefit Foundation to provide comfort to our community.  

In some respects, the challenges we face at Patient Benefit Foundation are not dissimilar to those faced by other age-old institutions. We are always seeking to ensure relevance and public service. The concept of trusteeship is not just a legal necessity – it invokes the idea of sound stewardship of values and institutions passing from one generation to the next. As a society, we imbue that stewardship with a great deal of importance. Let’s say that the health of our charities is the surest gauge of the health of our society. When charities are succeeding and adapting, we can afford to be optimistic about the future of our society. When charities fail, for whatever reason – lack of money or a failure of governance – that also tells us something about the health of our nation, which we do well to note. We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give and that is the core mission of Patient Benefit Foundation.  

By: Pearl Vuorinen, March 18 2021

 

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