First, a very happy 2011 to the three people who actually read this blog. Have a great new year ahead! :-)
I donated a sum of exactly $210.10 to charity in the whole of last year. Of that, $210 comprised of automated deductions by my employer from the monthly paycheck to a charity I know next to nothing about. The remaining 10 cents went into the X-mas donation box at a Subway outlet. By most accounts, this record of giving is quite simply, pathetic. And no, this post is not inspired by Mr Premji's $2 billion largesse. It's been at the back of my mind for a while now. And perhaps no action was taken on the 'giving money away' bit was because I saw this to be in direct conflict with the 'save as much cash and retire early' goal. But one can do both. The importance of giving cannot be over-emphasised in a world entrenched in pitiful inequality. There are many right-minded people out there running charities and organizations that make a difference everyday, against the hardest odds, assisting in places that the state has long forsaken, in areas where funding is dearer than onions. I remember looking out of my window in Kolkata at the 9 year old who sweeps the building floor and wondering if he went to school. And then glancing at the shriveled old lady at a Singapore food court and thinking if she could afford food, clothing and shelter. Helping the boy get to school and the lady the basics of urban existence requires money. And if you have some to spare, why not pitch in? If you do, in a way you're also helping yourself. The kid will get an education, perhaps excel in chemistry or math, and contribute to the next big medical breakthrough which helps save your near and dear ones, or, less dramatically, will grow up to be an honest teacher and spread his knowledge to generations of students. The old lady will lead a life of dignity, feel happy about her existence and do a great job at work, so when you head to her food court for a cup of coffee, you will get not only a wonderfully clean table, but a cheerful smile to go with your coffee and your day will be brighter for it. Giving has both very tangible and intangible benefits, both to the beneficiary and the donor. There is a general belief that to give substantially prerequisites great wealth. A facetious argument, if there ever was one. Give what you can. Financial security has nothing to do with helping in small proportions. Every cent and every paisa makes a difference. So chose a cause that you are passionate about and give what you can to see a change, however small that may be. You'll feel good. Remember, you can't take it all with you when you go.