THEY say charity begins at home. This is not necessarily so. Charity begins from the heart. It can be carried out anywhere at any time and there’s no end to it.
Charity means doing good or rather contributing towards helping others and making their lives better.
Thus we must look beyond the simple definition and not confine charity to just monetary contributions. It is about benevolence.
One description of benevolence is that it is any kind act, but it can also be the desire to do nice things. When you’re feeling selfish, you probably won’t show benevolence, but if benevolence comes through in spite of your crankiness or other shortcomings, then you know you’re really a good person.
My close friend Dina is the inspiration for this article. He told me about his recent visit to the Penang Hospital where his mother was warded for a heart ailment.
Dina had been going to the hospital for two days and would spend several hours with his mother. During that time, he noticed two other patients who did not get any visitors. They had sadness and loneliness written all over their faces, Dina said.
He went over to them and started chatting with them. That really made their day because the only companion they had before this was the ceiling fan which they would stare at blankly.
After about an hour with them, Dina bade them goodbye. The two ladies thanked him for keeping them company. The kind gesture had certainly made their day and brightened up their spirit, even if it was just for a short while.
That’s the sort of charity that no amount of money can replace. Priceless.
That was not the end of Dina’s kind deed. On the third day, he noticed another heart patient who was on her bed with one arm over her chest.
The nurse brought the patient’s meal and just left it at the side table. With restricted mobility, it would have been extremely difficult for the lady to have her meal.
Dina went over and helped to prop her up and make sure she was comfortable enough to eat on her own.
The woman thanked Dina before he left and told him: “Terima kasih, doctor” (Thank you, doctor). The “doctor” just smiled at her and walked away, knowing full well his selflessness had made things better for someone.
Again, a priceless charitable act. Something money cannot replace.
Then sadly, there is the other extreme – people who believe they are doing charity but are instead causing more grief and heartache.
A good example would be when a group of us went for a gotong royong at an old folks’ home in Penang late last month.
A friend had earlier done some homework on the place, so we roughly knew what to expect. Or did we?
What greeted us was nothing less than shocking. There was so much rubbish and clutter that we almost didn’t know where to start.
The annoying part is many of these throwaway items were “donated” by the public. These included spoilt fans, broken wheelchairs and even derelict refrigerators.
The caretaker and his wife have been running the place for over 20 years. They are in their 70s and find it difficult to say no when someone offers to “donate” such stuff. So over the years, a lot of rubbish had accumulated in the home.
We finally got the job of cleaning up the home done. We bought them some new stuff to replace all the rotten ones and advised the caretaker couple not to be “too nice” when people offered their stuff.
Why do people do this? These homes need genuine help, they are not dumping grounds for items which are of no use to us.
The basic question to ask oneself is that if something is useless to you, how would it be useful to anyone else? The same goes for clothing and shoes. It is good to donate your used stuff but make sure it is something you would still use if not for your full wardrobe. Otherwise, just dump the reject items in the dustbin.
The point is there’s always a lot of good to be done, but it has to be done the right way – with sincerity.
The next time you see that uncle with the walking stick trying to cross the road, give him a hand. Or if that auntie in the bus has no place to sit, offer her your seat.
All these actions may seem insignificant but they are meaningful gestures. Bring happiness to others and it will naturally make you happy, too.
Charity is an easy thing. Generosity is not just about money but also deeds. Even the poor can do it. It comes from the heart.