I forgot who said this (I’ve seen an early reference in the Gospel of Matthew), but I never forgot it: An act of charity is not defined by how much you give, but by how much you have left after you give. When we were poor, I remember my father slipping $10 into someone’s mailbox (a huge amount) whom he knew was in even worse shape. That to me was far more impressive than someone of means giving $10,000 or a foundation giving $1 million. I’ve tried to make those adjustments as we’ve grown more fortunate.
We attend church all over the US and the world when we travel, and I find it very touching that so many people put a few coins in the collection basket. I never make a judgment except to think good for them, because I have no idea what they have left.
I kid a lot about humility, but this time of year I do feel humble–not because of my successes or failures, but because we are all such small beings in the hugeness of the cosmos bestowed with the ability to make a difference, to touch someone, to leave an improved condition.
Our legacy doesn’t magically appear at death. We are writing it every day. Some don’t know it, and some barely improve it. But some rejoice in in the existential journey as it occurs.
Happiness must be beyond, or the fire will not burn as brightly as it might–the urge will not be great enough to make a great success.
— Theodore Dreiser, Jennie Gerhardt, 1911
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