We often hear about people, particularly the rich people in developed countries, being very generous. A couple of years back, Bill and Malinda Gates were in the news for giving away US$ 32.91 billion in charity. Also, Warren Buffet gave away US$ 25.54 billion for the wellbeing of less endowed people. Another generous person Chuck Feeney shifted to a rented apartment after giving up his own house in addition to US$ 7.5 billion. Someone might say that these people have so much wealth that they can afford to give away. But I believe, it is not how much wealth we have, rather it is the mind-set of a person to give for the good of others.
In Bangladesh, generosity is rarely practiced by our rich people or those who have the ability to give. Rather, sometimes we see some people give money or other materials to the needy people for media coverage or propaganda. Anyway, let them start such practices for publicity, then one day they may really become generous.
Generosity is a virtue, to practice it one needs to have a genuine enlightened heart to do good for others. It not only entails the moral good expressed but also many vices rejected like meanness, selfishness, greed, fear, etc. There is no religion that does not encourage people to be generous. In Islam, Qur’an states that whatever one gives away generously with the intention of pleasing Allah, He will replace it manifold. Allah knows what is in the hearts of men and He is the best of providers. In Christianity in the Acts of the Apostles, it is mentioned that Jesus had said that giving is better than receiving. The rich Christians are advised to be ‘generous and willing to share’. In Buddhism, generosity is one of the ten perfections, being the antidote to the self-chosen poison called greed. As the majority of our people believe in religion, we know that whatever wealth we gather under our names will remain here once we leave the world. We will not be able to take a single farthing with us at the time of our last departure. If that is the case, then why don’t we make our mind to stand by the needy with some of the things we have and make them smile!
Also, we should not forget about our social obligations. I appeal to those people of our society who have the ability to extend their hands to their neighbours in distress. It will give huge happiness which one cannot buy with one’s wealth. These needy people are in fact, our neighbours, relatives or villagers whom we meet very often. They will be very happy once they find us beside them sharing their sorrows.
In Bangladesh, there are many generous people, but their percentage with respect to the well-off population is negligible. I do not know the reasons behind them being so self-centered that they do not seek to ease the sorrows and pains of others. Being the citizens of a country that was built on sacrifice, it is beyond imagination as to why we lack such a positive human quality. Why do we not see the pains and difficulties of others and stand beside the have-nots or distressed people to dissipate their sorrows and miseries?
It is my strong belief that generosity can contribute a lot towards making our country a better place. Generosity can not only change the life of the receiver, but also improves the life of the contributor. Unfortunately, we utilise our resources for our own pursuits, like security, possessions, enjoyment and luxury. We rarely feel that there are opportunities surrounding us to be generous. In fact, we have to change our mind-set and philosophy of life and come forward to take the greater advantages of the abundant benefits of generosity. To be generous, one need not be a millionaire, but only requires to have a mentality of sacrifice.
Generous people feel that if they give, they will receive more, in terms of satisfaction. In fact, giving increases happiness through loving and caring for others. It’s true that a few generous people cannot change the existing world scenario. But if we can change even one life, it would be a worthy endeavour. Generosity does not only mean giving something financially, it can also be sharing time, talents and experiences with people who need those. Sharing with others might be helpful in changing our lives. Truly speaking, sharing these resources is more difficult than signing a cheque or giving money from the pocket. I humbly request the people of Bangladesh, who do not have financial ability but have these resources, to come forward and be generous in sharing their resources with the people who need it. I strongly believe that this initiative might change the lives of many people in our society. Let’s have a campaign all over the country on this particular issue.
However, living in a society where people can even murder siblings or parents for material gain, it might be difficult to establish an environment of generosity. Bangladesh is desperately in need of cheerful generous givers. They might play an active role in making our society more worthy of living. Generous people can push our society forward. We can even organise social awareness and motivation programmes to inspire our people to be more generous. There is no doubt that we have a good number of people who have the ability to give and share in abundance. Can’t we transform our culture to include generosity as a part of it? Thus, as generous people, then we will be able to make Bangladesh a much better place for all.
The writer is a former Ambassador and Secretary