Charity has existed for as long as man has had enough to share. Compassion is our basic drive to give for those less fortunate than ourselves. Be it alms coins to the poor from the church in the 1500’s or Bill Gates giving 50 Billion dollar checks to foundations to give in his name. The idea of what charity is has just been turned on its ear.
This is important because one of the more important elements of Freemasonry is its outlook towards Charity (faith and hope too).
How it came to be is likely a jumble of one time benefit societies, widows of workman, and an endearment towards mankind, especially as those of affluence looked towards those who were without.
It was an alms to the poor, the act of compassion, of love. Love in the sense of a divine love, not an expression of passion , rather a fraternal love. In a sense, the way the great Architect looks down upon you and I.
Over time, that Charitas, Charity, has evolved. Still the giving of alms, but instead of throwing gold coins to the masses, charity is now and endowment towards an institution. Think of the proverb that says instead of giving a man a fish, you teach him how to catch one.
Now, at the pinnacle of the pyramid of giving, Bill Gates has upped the anti. Rather than give his fortune to his children, instead he’s opted to give it back to the world.
Dust to dust, money to money….
But Gates with his friend and philanthropic colleague Warren Buffet are together asking other American Billionaires to donate half of their fortunes too.
It is an epic undertaking to imagine – so much accumulated wealth spread out to so many organizations. Gates and Buffett in asking other billionaires who make a pledge to do so publicly, with a letter explaining their decision.
“The pledge is a moral commitment to give, not a legal contract. It does not involve pooling money or supporting a particular set of causes or organizations,” they explain in a written statement about the project.
With such monumental giving, it makes me wonder if at the end of the day, those that need the help most will receive it, or if the distribution of money will just go to make other rich.
An alternative might be something like a kiva.com giving micro loans to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd world recipients to establish a business or materials to make an income.
Or, give it in a manner like Percy Ross who said of giving and the results of it
“He who gives while he lives also knows where it goes. . . . I’m having a ball, the time of my life.”
Why not give to those in need instead of funding new businesses to distribute the wealth?
But, Ross was considered gawdy and vulgar for his self promotion, and Gates, rather than allow himself to be portrayed the happy vulgar giver, instead operates on the down low and letting others be the decision makers to how his money is spent.
Either way, charity has a new face in 2010 and it seems like Gates and the Billionaire Club are leading the way for giving.
With such epic giving as they do, is our lesser run of the mill giving any less valuable?