Giving Back: meditations on how to make a real difference

This is Part 5 of a 5 part series. To see the whole series, read the introductory post.

Giving to the poor is a complete waste of time.

I still do it, and I’m sure that the charities that I suppport appreciate every penny. The spirit of giving is important too: wanting to give back is the core human condition. But in a life measured through impact, a paltry $25/mth donation (or $250 or $2500) probably isn’t getting anybody anywhere.

And even if you can’t be bothered to do more, who gets your $25/mth? How do you decide who is worthy and who is not? Is giving to a popular cause that already has more funding than they can reasonably spend helping or hurting the situation?

What if you had $1B? What and to whom would you give? I’m not sure I have an answer to that question, and it is because of that that I think on making a real difference everyday. I want to make lasting change in the world. I want to do it in a way that it is sustainable after I’m gone. I want to affect an impact where one would have been missing without me. More importantly, I want my gift to be a personal one, where I know the faces and the names of those I help.

In this context, I measure impact through the joy I see in others’ faces. I measure impact through the gratitude it generates. I measure impact through hope that appears as if from nowhere when you step up to help. And you can’t do that through an internet email money transfer.

I teach my kids to be curious and to travel the world so that, in part, they can see for themselves the dark corners that need light. You can’t know what to give, or when to give it, if you haven’t seen and felt it’s lack. Donating to the poor so that you can spend your time doing something else is a complete waste of your time, because it is that time and your attention that counts most of all.


Jon Holt

A coach, an entrepreneur, and a no-bull advisor in growing small businesses through the use of practical strategy, light-weight governance and sitting back and thinking about running your business, regardless of what you do.

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