By editorial board • 

Finding it in your heart to help others over holidays


Philanthropy consists of private initiatives undertaken for the public good without an expectation of personal gain.

Acts of philanthropy or charity represents one of the few ways individuals, organizations and business enterprises can make a difference without depending on collecting enough political support to set the ponderous wheels of government in motion. Government may offer encouragement through its tax policies and fraud protection through its regulatory powers, but exercises no direct control.

Like democracy and other manifestations of individual expression and empowerment, the concept dates back to the ancient Greeks. The Greek philosopher and priest Plutarch developed the concept in the second century AD, dubbing it philanthropia.

Both Catholic and Protestant expressions of Christianity have embraced acts of selfless giving down through the ages, as have the world's other leading religions. And since the advent of the industrial revolution, powerful secular strains have come to the fore as well, particularly in the U.S..

Those who have the most have the most to give, and the size of their philanthropy has made some of them virtually household words. Andrew Canegie, John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford helped lead the way, setting the stage for the likes of Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg and George Soros.

But you don't have to be independently wealthy to make a positive difference in the lives of others. And there is no better time than the holiday season, which puts a premium on the noble concept of giving rather than receiving.

One tried and true way to magnify your impact is to unite with others in common cause. Among the purest national expressions is the March of Dimes, built on the premise on turning dimes into dollars and dollars into millions of dollars.

Locally, worthy examples include A Family Place, Henderson House, Homeward Bound, Juliette's House, Habitat fir Humanity, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Barnabas, YCAP and many others. No less than 32 worthy charitable organizations were featured in the 56-page Season of Giving guide appearing in last Friday's News-Register.

Another way to boost impact is to engage in random acts of individual kindness. The idea is to narrow the target instead of expand the giving, thus making a meaningful difference for someone at a level open to the average person — a person lacking even a time fraction of the worth of a Carnegie or Gates.

One benefit of this approach is fostering an urge in the recipient to play it forward by helping someone else in turn. A letter in today's Viewpoints section offers an apt example.

In the letter, McMinnville resident Roxane Henderson recounts the surprise, joy and gratitude she felt when an anonymous stranger picked up the tab for her groceries in a local checkout line. She writes:

"This act touched my heart. It left me reflecting on the true reason for the season, especially considering all the extra challenges we are dealing with this year. If more people randomly touched others, our world would be in a better place.

"My angel or Santa’s helper has inspired me to pay it forward, and for that I offer thanks."

Please take up the challenge. Find a way to be someone else's angel or Santa's helper this holiday season and help make out world a better place.



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