Point: Do your intentions matter when giving to charity?

Rachel Kogan, Assistant Opinions Editor

The holiday break is approaching.  The lure of sleep, presents, and little schoolwork seems to penetrate student and staff minds alike—but the holiday spirit does not stop there.  The feeling spurs people to participate in acts of charity more than usual.

December tends to be filled with coat drives, bake sales, and any other forms of fundraising and philanthropy.  People seem to be more motivated than usual around this time of year to aid those in need.  With so many opportunities to help others, people tend to forget their original intentions of goodwill.

If you look up “philanthropy” in the dictionary, you will see that it originates from the Greek word for “love of humanity.”  That is exactly what charities and community service events are about.  Countless foundations and volunteer organizations are created based on a single principle: we should give back to the community out of thankfulness in order to spread the love.

“There is absolutely nothing that can replace the feeling you get from helping someone out,” said junior Anan Rayn.  “It’s a feeling of pride that you went out of your way to make someone else’s life easier.  It’s the ultimate reward.”

Receiving recognition for donations or participation in certain organizations or fundraisers has become prevalent over the past few decades.  Although it may be pleasant to be rewarded for a good deed, non-for-profit organizations are created specifically to raise awareness about a certain issue, regardless of the financial benefits.

“I don’t agree with people who volunteer or donate to charity for superficial reasons,” said junior Paige Torres.  “Charity is supposed to be for others, but a lot of people take advantage of that and do ‘selfless’ things just because they think it will reflect well on them.  It seems as if charity is becoming more about selfishness than selflessness.”

Volunteering and participating in community service events is viewed as mandatory for students applying to college.  It is good that students are helping others, but they no longer do it out of intrinsic desire.  Rather, they are propelled by a negative stimulus: if they do not participate, there will be harsh consequences.

“As they say, ‘It’s the thought that counts,’” said Rayn.  “If you’re only helping out charity for the volunteering hours for colleges, you’re mainly just trying to help yourself.”

“What will happen if all of a sudden people don’t get rewarded for their ‘charitable’ actions?” said Torres.  “People will just stop doing nice things for others.  Meanwhile all the problems continue to persist.  We need those people who truly care to be there to help those in need.”

So this holiday season, or the next time you volunteer, think about what you are doing.  Are you participating because you truly believe in the organization’s message?  Or are you just there to reap the benefits or to receive recognition?  If you answered yes to the latter question, consider revaluating your intentions.  Yes, you are technically helping others, but are you actually becoming a better person?  It is difficult for human beings to be selfless, but that does not mean we should not try to be.