Monday, December 24, 2012

The Three Types of Givers

Today is Christmas Eve; it is the beginning of the Christmas season (at least liturgically speaking, in the evening). In our more secular culture, today caps off the "season of giving" that precedes Christmas.
Much has been said (much more eloquently than I could put it) by wiser men about the religious aspects of Jesus coming to earth in the form of a child. 
The end of the "season of giving" behooves us to take a look at what exactly constitutes giving, who gives to others, and how these men and women give to others.
There are three types of givers in this world: humanitarians, philanthropists, and “givers.” All of these people give of themselves to others in some fashion.
The first type of giver is the humanitarian – one who dedicates his time and energy to help those in need. The humanitarian is the missionary, the doctor, the activist. He feeds, clothes, shelters, and clothes others directly,  devoting himself directly to helping his fellow man.  
The second type of giver is the philanthropist – an individual who gives thousands or even millions of dollars to people in need of assistance or charities which distribute this largess. He is usually too engaged in business affairs to help the poor through direct action, so he gives money in lieu of time.
Both of these callings are noble indeed, and those who engage in them should be encouraged to continue in their spirit of sacrifice. The world needs men who devote their lives to giving themselves to others. 
But there are dangers in both of these callings. There is always the danger to seeking too much praise in these professions (especially philanthropy). More subtle is the danger of entrenchment – of thinking that one’s duty to the suffering ends with time or money. Total self-gift is the true path to Christianity – and the danger of careerism in humanitarianism or narcissism in philanthropy that poisons both these professions is strong.
Few of us have the drive to be humanitarians or the money to be philanthropists. Most of us have lives and families that we must devote ourselves to; we are too poor to be philanthropists and too busy to be humanitarians.
But all of us can be "givers." Givers lives their daily lives in service to those around them. A giver gives generously of his time to those in need; he sets aside what money or food he can spare to those in need. At the same time, he serves his family and his friends to the best of his ability. A giver serves all men he meets in a manner that allows him to help all in some way; prudence and generosity are his hallmarks.
He still goes about his daily business; he wins not the plaudits of the media or awards for his generosity. His mission is silent, but no less necessary than that of the humanitarian or philanthropist.
The call to be a giver is the mission of most of the Christian laity. We Christians must be in the world but not of the world; we must be servants to all. It is especially appropriate that during this Christmas season, when Christ gave Himself the ultimate gift to humanity, we should be called to emulate His total self-gift, by serving others in whatever way we can.  
Merry Christmas, readers!

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