You donate canned goods to the local food bank so that a hungry family can eat well tonight, or volunteer at the rescue mission spooning corn onto the plate of a woman who lost her home.
Some people call this “God’s work.”
Sometimes, however, you may wonder if these acts of charity really make a difference. Will the man by the freeway use your coins to buy food, or a can of beer? Will that poor orphan on the other side of the world really get the help she needs?
Charity has been an integral part of humanity for thousands of years. But does it really make a difference?
Last month, I took part in a gathering of social entrepreneurs called the !deation Conference. Most participants were in their 20s and 30s, what CBS News called the Lost Generation, who countered any accusation of being “lost” by starting the next generation of charities and social-good business endeavors.
Instead, I would call them the Generation of Change.
These innovators provide clean water to children in orphanages (A Child’s Right), build schools in impoverished slums (The Supply), and protect the feet of people in the developing world (TOMS Shoes). This new generation of change-makers is redefining today’s acts of charity.
When we look back 30 years from now, will we feel that they succeeded?
If my own story is any indication, these new acts of charity can change people’s lives forever. I have experienced it first hand.
I asked the !deation community to hit “fast forward” and picture the future. Could they see where that orphaned child, hungry and barefoot, would be in 30 years?
I can. Because I am that child.
I was that impoverished orphan with a bleak future. My early years were spent in an orphanage funded, in part, by a charitable organization that was known as the Christian Children’s Fund, now called Child Fund.
An American family saved me from that hopeless life by adopting me. That was the first day of the rest of my dramatically changed life.
Today, I am paying forward this simple act of charity in my own life by leading an effort to house people living on the streets of America. This is my way of continuing the charitable legacy.
Now, when I encounter a person holding a cardboard sign of hopelessness or when I write my own checks to charitable organizations, my reason for giving is not because of some sense of “luck.”
No, it’s because I imagine the future. I see my act of charity as the first step of a person’s new life.
When you toss those coins into a can or click the donate button on an organization’s website, you may not realize what a world of difference your contribution could make.