Do you know the definition of charity? I’m sure you think you do. Most people, as a matter of fact, will say that charity means making a financial contribution. They would be partly right, but just partly.
While “a gift for public benevolent purposes” is one of the definitions for the word charity, it is not the only one. The first definition of “charity” as defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary is: “benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity.” The second definition is: “generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering.”
So, as you can see, being charitable does not always mean making financial donations. You don’t need to open your wallet; you just need to open your heart. Here are just a few, easy ways you can open your heart to others and find charity within yourself:
Bake an extra batch of cookies, or cook an extra pot of soup, and deliver it to a new neighbor. How rare is it today for neighbors to formally be welcomed into the neighborhood? An added touch would be to jot down the names and numbers of the local dry cleaners, pizza delivery, and some available baby sitters. And don’t forget to check back a few weeks later. Reaching out to someone new makes them feel like part of a community, and it can be an act of charity that will always be remembered and will likely be repeated the next time someone else moves into town. Do the same for an old neighbor, especially one who is sick or going through a tough time.
Don’t ever throw anything away; just find new homes for things. I always get so upset when I find out that perfectly usable items have been thrown away. Not only is that bad for the planet (land fills, anyone?), but it’s a downright shame to the millions of people out there who could use your “trash.” Some good examples: gently used clothing and bedding; used Halloween costumes; bridal gowns and communion gowns; opened packages of diapers; packaged food that is still within the expiration date; books; partially used coloring books; craft supplies; office supplies; furniture. The list could go on and on. Shelters, food pantries, church programs that tend to the poor, and even school systems in low-income areas, could use any of these types of items. And, if you just can’t find anyone to take these items, why not have a garage sale and donate the proceeds to charity?
Do you want to do more? Do you have some time to give, but you just don’t know where or how to get started? Pick up a phone and call 2-1-1. Organized and manned by United Way organizations in almost every state of the country, 2-1-1 is a lifeline for those in need and those wanting to fill those needs. Find out which agencies work with needy children. Learn about the agencies and organizations that could use your hand-me-downs. Register for an upcoming charity walk. At 2-1-1, you can find out exactly how you can be put to use.
And, in the end, you benefit just as much as the people and organizations who will receive your “charity.” So many studies have shown that the act of giving to those in need increases serotonin levels in the giver, much like these levels increase when a person wins the lottery. An increase in serotonin has also been shown to help ease depression.
In the end, being charitable to others is the same as being charitable to self. That’s a win-win for everybody, isn’t it?