Dharma asked, "Irwin, what are your plans were for the rest of the summer?" I replied, Not much Sir, but I'm always open to new opportunities that might present themselves. Why do you ask?" I thought maybe he had some job he needed my help with, but that wasn't it at all. "Son, I've noticed that you haven't been doing very much charitable work recently. I know that summer is a busy time for everyone, but that shouldn't preclude your helping those in need." I hung my head a little. He was right and I did feel rather guilty for abandoning them. Since I hadn't been doing much these days to help my favorite causes, I told him I'd write each one a small check as soon as my lesson was over. I thought that would make him happy but, instead, he looked at me with disappointment. "Tadpole, a frog's generosity consists not in the sum given, but the manner in which it is bestowed. The fact that you want to write each one of your charities a check is good, but I sense that you're doing this more to keep me quiet and make your conscious a little lighter. Otherwise you would have thought of it on your own...without my prompting you. Generosity is best when it is given freely from the heart. I like to call it, meaningful giving."
Charitable giving, whether it's financial, in-kind donations, or a gift of time should bring both the donor, and the recipient, joy. As Dharma explained it to me, many frogs (and humans, too) give out of a sense of obligation...because it's expected of them. Others give for the tax break they'll receive at the end of the year, or for a favor they hope to receive in return. Still others give so that the donation solicitor will simply go away. Those kinds of charitable giving, although still helpful to the organization, won't bring any joy to the giver. When you make a donation because you truly want to help someone, or a benefit a specific cause that's important to you; when you genuinely and wholeheartedly are giving to make the world a little better and a little brighter...that is meaningful giving and that will bring joy to everyone. I like to use the example of a birthday present. Would you rather receive a small gift given by someone who truly likes you and wants to honor you on your birthday? Or would you rather have a fabulous gift given by someone who is only doing it because they know it's the thing to do. Perhaps they don't know you very well. Maybe they don't even like you, but still they get a gift. Those gifts will never have the same impact as the one given with love and with meaning, no matter their size or monetary value.
After Dharma and I had had finished our repast, I cleared away the dishes and we finished up the last bit of tea. As he prepared to leave, he said to me, "Irwin, you're a good frog and you have learned well. I know you will think about today's lesson before writing those checks." And with that, he hopped away.
And think about it I did. I knew that I had been lack when it came to my volunteerism so Dharma's lesson really hit home. I decided, right then and there, that instead of simply mailing off a check to these charities, I would visit each one in person over the next week. I was still going to donate a little cash, but I thought it would be a good idea to check in with them and see how they're doing. Over the years, I've developed a kind of friendship with the other frog volunteers. It occurred to me that I really had missed those relationships! It's so easy to get distracted, especially over the summer, but the needs of these nonprofit organizations go on whether it's July or December and I suddenly felt the overwhelming urge to go and be a part of their work...not just a name on a paper check. This must be what Dharma meant by meaningful giving; to genuinely want to be an active part of the organizations I had chosen to support. It brought me joy just thinking about it!
And I knew that somewhere out there, Dharma was smiling.