Pentecost 126

Pentecost 126
My Psalm 126

The Gift of a Smile

“You need to give to get. Giving does begin the receiving process” is the belief of Robin Sharma. Sharma is a Canadian attorney who has written fifteen books and owner of his own business leadership training company. His best seller, “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari”, was adapted as a play and produced in Mumbai. Considered a world leadership guru, Sharma believes making altruism a habit is a key essential to productive living.

Indian writer George Kochu, on his blog Positive Way Living states: “Giving is a virtue. It has been considered so even form the ancient times. We can trace this virtue is being praised even in Mahabharata when Krishna speaks of the Niskamakarma (giving without expecting anything in return) to Arjuna. Giving something to someone with the intention of getting back is nothing but barter system or a business. It becomes a virtue, when we give without expecting anything in return.”

In 1989 James Andreoni coined the phrase “Warm Glow Giving” to describe the effect some charitable acts have on the giver. Research conducted by Harbaugh, Mayr, and Burghart in their 2007 “Neural Responses to Taxation and Voluntary Giving Reveal Motives for Charitable Donations paper demonstrated that the reward centers of the brain activate in response to charitable giving and helping others, suggesting physiological evidence for the warm-glow phenomenon.

The study of altruism is not just about giving to charities, however. Municipalities and governments have investigated it as to whether it can be utilized in funding services. In both the Czech Republic and South Korea, studies were conducted to determine if a WTP or Willingness to Pay for services could provide a revenue stream for library services. The South Korean study found a disparency in results between traditional WTP and newer methods and reasons. In the Czech study researchers Hajek and Stejskal discovered “Payment mechanism is an important issue in the process of the elicitation design. Various payment mechanisms are employed in this study. Our findings suggest that the willingness of people to decide about the allocation of a certain amount of their taxes (tax decrease or increase) represents a compromise between the increasingly discussed out-of-pocket willingness to pay and in-pocket willingness to accept compensation approaches. The main determinants of public library value (in the case of the Municipal Library of Prague) include available income of the households, frequency of use of the services, and alternative costs. Furthermore, the effects of both the use and importance of services on the public library value is investigated. The importance of loan services is the major determinant of the value.”

The study of why people give to charities and how much people will give for government services is a popular and varied field of study. Working for Monash University’s Department of Economics, researchers Grossman and Eckel discovered the following: “Our study focuses directly on subjects’ willingness to contribute to and take from a charity. We do this by allocating the initial endowment in one of three ways: either all to the subjects, all to the charity, or evenly between the two. Subjects are allowed to either contribute or take back as little or as much as they wish. We find that framing is irrelevant when comparing the two extreme cases. The final amount allocated to the charity is independent of how the choice option is framed. On the other hand, we find evidence suggesting that, when the endowments are evenly split between the two parties, the initial even split seems to act as a powerful focal point: the final outcome is insignificantly different from the initial allocation.”

Andreoni relied on another phrase is describing why people did not make charitable contributions and coined it the “cold-prickle” effect. Much of his research involved how a proposition or opportunity to do good was offered to the doer. Subsequent research, used by advertising executives worldwide as well as by governments, seems to refute his first studies. While Andreoni focused on how such an opportunity is presented or framed, others have long considered these scenarios in terms of philosophical, religious, and psychological contexts.

The basic concept of “Do unto others”, coined in the seventeenth century Europe as “The Golden Law”, can be traced to Confucianism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, etc. Simon Blackburn also states that the Golden Rule can be “found in some form in almost every ethical tradition”. Regardless of the religion or spirituality, all of these variations of the Golden Law or Rule have one thing alike – treating someone as you would like to be treated. It was even referenced in the Code of Hammurabi when defining the limits of acceptable retribution limits: “An eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth.” The Golden Law was adopted by the Parliament of the World’s Religions in 1993 as the basic principle of all religions and signed by one hundred and forty-three world leaders..

Many of us haven’t a great deal to give another but charitable acts can be done every day with little cost to the doer. After all, it costs nothing to give a mile to another. Holding the door open required a few seconds of your time and no added effort since you’ve already opened the door for yourself. Leaving a penny on the counter, paying for an extra cup of coffee for whomever might come along behind you….there really is no end to the list of what is possible when we think of others. The added health benefits are documented.

Confucius said it best: “Zi Gong asked, saying, “Is there one word that may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life?” The Master said, “Is not reciprocity such a word? Never impose on others what you would not choose yourself.” Seneca concluded” No happiness is gained from inflicting sorrow on another.”

My Psalm 126

We thank you, Great One, for the blessing of life.
We thank you for the blessing of family.
We thank you for the blessing of health.
We thank you for the blessing of love.
May we walk so as to continue all life.
May we consider all children of God the family of all men.
May we live in a way to promote continued good health.
May we leave a trail of goodness as we walk through the world.
May a smile be our shadow.

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