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Why Charity Is Fruitful

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                                              Why Charity is Fruitful

      How can charity be considered as a form of reciprocity? And what advantages arise when one devotes his free time for humanitarian work? “The obligation to give, the obligation to receive and the obligation to return the gift” are the major components that make up reciprocity and give it a spiritual value at times (Erikson, 2004).  People give help, resources and affection to others willingly and with kind intent. When someone decides to offer a gift, he/she is giving a part of himself because he/she values the recipient and cares for him/her. After all, gift exchange will bring both happiness for the giver and the receiver, because anyone can give something material for something immaterial.

     After all, Marcel Mauss, the main founder of reciprocity, declares that “there is no such thing as voluntary gift” and that “one gives things because it is part of the system”. If one doesn’t reciprocate, no social benefits arise, and he’s out of the game. This means that gift exchange occurs naturally within the context of the group, and giving is part of the social process in which one struggles to refrain from selfishness and contribute to the well-being of people in society.

     I have always liked playing on the piano in my free time, and I have devoted this as my hobby. That’s why I got interested in playing all sorts of tones and melodies that are old but gold. These tunes included Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Tchalkovsky, Faure, Ponce, and other famous instrumental composers from history. My parents have encouraged me since I was young to learn to play all these notes because they believed in music, and they believed that life is better when melodies are crafted like an art, until I became gifted in playing the most famous notes. And because of that, every year, I dedicate the winter break to playing piano and performing with my colleagues at the Lebanese National Higher Conservatory of Music.

    Each year we hold an event (concerto) that takes place in the most popular musical theatres in Lebanon Amphitheatre Pierre Y.Abou Khater, and the money that we earn from such fabulous musical events is spent on charity in which 75% of the money is circulated through the help of the ministry of social affairs to Childrens’ Cancer Center and Dar Al-Aytam.  It is true that everybody finds himself in “a maze of vague commitments and obligations to others” (Erikson, 2004). This disagrees a little bit with Mauss’ emphasis on personal fame as a motivating factor because the goal here is to contribute to the well-being of kids suffering from cancer and orphans who live in poor conditions. This form of ‘generalized reciprocity’ is benevolent and does not demand any return of gifts (Erikson, 2004). Hence, gifts carry obligations, especially when the gift has some sort of altruistic goal destined to improve people’s lives.

    In his article “Expressions of Charity and Action towards Justice: Faith-based Welfare Provision in Urban New Zealand”, David Conradson argues that fundraising events produce economic resources that are moved into social and community development. Religion can be the motivation for transformational projects, and religious faith can encourage social engagement. As a matter of fact, working for social development and systemic justice is synonymous with “moving beyond the personal realm, mobilizing people power against entrenched institutional power” after regarding the causes and effects of oppression, inequality and social alienation…Charity’s primary goal is giving donations to support agencies that have humanitarian missions, which “provide professional social services such as food, shelter, clothing, counseling, social work, aged care, etc…” for the ones in need (Conradson 2008).

    Conradson then gives the example of the annual community Christmas lunch, where “volunteers would prepare and serve food to around 100 people in a church hall setting.” This arrangement has imposed a mild form of discrimination between benevolent volunteers (who could feel good about themselves and their work) and the inner-city poor who got invited to the lunch and whose receipt of charity tended to “underscore their position of need and dependency on other people’s support”. This has created indirectly a sense of “us versus them” and contradicted with the altruistic goal of one-way reciprocity: it has initiated a perspective when reciprocity is used to humiliate others by “showering them with wealth” and “flattening them with generosity” (Cronk). That’s why, to prevent the receivers from feeling down and in debt, and to contribute better to the well-being of clients, the church took an alternative measure of distributing Christmas hampers to people for consumption in their own homes. In this way, families would “celebrate Christmas in their preferred manner, without being publicly marked as the recipients of faith-based charity” (Conradson 2008).

     In their article “Moral Charity”, Michael Hartsock and Eric Roark argue that “agents have a prima facie duty of charity”, and that “charity is an act that aids another agent in fulfilling his/her needs”. They stress on the fact that the need of the beneficiary is more important than the actions of the benefactor when it comes to donating goods like food, money or shelter. In fact, the scope of charity extends wider beyond the biological needs to include “social, psychological and emotional needs such as education, meaningful interpersonal relationships, and inclusion in a social community…”  All sorts of charity that are tangible such as giving food to the homeless, helping cloth someone, etc…  directly contribute to a person’s biological needs and indirectly reform his/her way of life by drawing happiness on his/her face through the action of giving. If someone offers to lend an old suit to a “halfway house” , he/she is giving another the kind of clothes necessary to keep him warm, and he/she is also providing the recipient with the opportunity to participate in society, recognize his/her self-worth , and apply for a job. Hence, charity may also acquire moral values that can let a person meet his/her social needs.  In giving under-privileged students charitable scholarships, we are not only giving them paychecks but also we are providing them with means to sustain their education and grow into mature civilized people with successful futures. (Hartsock and Roark 2014).

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