Two events in the backdrop of X-mas season tickled my thoughts to write this. I work for a major European investment bank in NY that recently organized an event called "toys for tots". 'Toys for tots' is a program run by US Army marine Corps. Companies partner with the Corps, they collect toys from staff and through the corps distribute it to needy children who cannot afford X-mas gifts. The Marine Corps is running this program since 1947 (http://www.toysfortots.org/about_toys_for_tots/toys_for_tots_program/origin_and_evolution.asp). This is just one aspect of charity giving that hits an all year high during X-mas. Companies partner with major non-profit organisations and announce corporate matching grants where the company puts a dollar for each dollar donated by employees. Companies consider it a prestige to exceed targets. Corporatised philanthropy has its benefits, its targeted, its reach is much wider, money is accounted for, programs are monitored and reported on. A popular charity drive is to get used winter coats for the needy, another network collects women's suits to donate to aspiring low-income professional women.
Giving is just one part X-mas, a consciously cultivated sense of forgiving is the true spirit of X-mas. MLK Jr captures this wonderfully in a sermon. Peter asks Christ "how many times shall I forgive if my brother sins against me, seven times?", the Lord answers "seventy times seven". MLK explains that when somebody can forgive a wrong doer 70 times 7 (490) then forgiveness becomes a habit. "PEACE" is the recurrent theme in New Testament. Matthew admonishes a worshipper who gives offerings while he runs a feud with his brother "leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift." Life is not a game to rebuke anybody as "too little too late in the game". When asked to be taught how to pray Christ offers the Lord's prayer which emphasises forgiveness "And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us".
This X-mas season and in seasons to come let us give as much as we can and learn the art of forgiveness enough to make it a habit.
Given the recent bad press on corporations and CEO's I could not resist adding the following:
Bill Gates Foundation is the richest and best run charity organization. Gates is redefining how charity is done. Impressed by the impeccable nature of Bill & Melinda Gates' work Warren Buffet, the second richest man, bequethed his entire wealth to the Gates foundation. Barack Obama's charity contributions rarely rose above a paltry 1% of his gross income (In 2001 he donated $1470 out of $272,000) until he decided to run for President. Al Gore set the record for political doublespeak, he donated $353 in 1997 when he earned $197K.
Barack Obama Charity details: http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2008/03/obama-releases.html