The Privilege of Giving

Author of this post - The Privilege of Giving

By Tochi Onuegbu

Duke University | Class of 2025 | Duke Chapter Director of Creativity

The Privilege of Giving

Assisting the poor in ways beyond financial donations

About twelve years ago, I almost lost the penchant to give. At that time, my first grade class was participating in a school-wide fundraiser, and each student was encouraged to share this news to their family and friends. As I strode back to the house that I shared with my cousins, there was an extra pep in my step—I couldn’t hide my excitement. I purposefully rushed home and told my parents about the fundraiser, fully expecting that they would be just as ecstatic as I was. However, their solemn expression told me all I needed to know. Needless to say, the next day I walked towards my bus stop awkwardly clutching a Ziploc bag filled with various types of coins. I found it difficult to conclude that I was making a difference through the fundraiser.

The ability to donate financial resources to others is a privilege that not everyone can partake in. Being raised in a low-income household, I unfortunately did not have that privilege. Even when my family finally had enough to give, I always felt that my contribution was too small to make an impact.

A mindset like this could have easily consumed me and prevented me from giving. Yet over the years, I have learned that while donating to charities is a way to demonstrate selflessness, standing in solidarity with the poor often involves actions that expand beyond the act of giving our pecuniary resources. Solidarity is a long-term devotion to walking and growing with the poor.

Financial donations are one method in which we can help the poor. However, the full picture of providing for those in need includes amplifying their voices in the political sphere and endorsing policies that will benefit them. The implementation of public policies, no matter how grand or modest they may be, have a long-lasting effect on many individuals and communities. Engaging with the poor directly and gaining first-hand understanding of their struggles is the best way to determine what policies will work best for them. Having this perspective enables one to become a political advocate by strengthening the voices of the poor and highlighting policies that will allay their plight. When all things are considered, such a method is just as effective and impactful as giving.

Furthermore, you can share your knowledge to the impoverished, giving them insights that can help them grow out of their season of poverty. The proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” is applicable in this case. It is often more beneficial to learn how to do something than to simply receive something. Thus, sharing information about ways to help the poor move from their state of stagnation to one of edification is a way we can continue our call to be our brother’s keeper. Such information manifests in different forms but among them is the act of exposing the poor to resources that will benefit them. While we engage with the poor in an instructional and mentor-like role, we should not succumb to pride. We must submit ourselves to the poor and show humility through solidarity so that we do not become boastful.

It’s important that those who are experiencing poverty come to know that they have a support system—a group of believers who stand in solidarity with them. Believers are called to be generous and loving, and love manifests when we practice selflessness through giving. Standing in solidarity can also be demonstrated in the form of being a political advocate or sharing your wisdom. So as we begin the new year, I urge you to demonstrate compassion and bless someone today and often by giving your pecuniary resources, time, or knowledge to the poor.

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