The Joy and Impact of Giving
By Keith Hinkle, senior vice president for Advancement and Public Affairs
“Think of giving not as a duty but as a privilege.” — John D. Rockefeller
I believe we intuitively know that it is better to give than to receive. Many grew up in homes where this principle was taught by parents. Some were never formally told this precept but nonetheless experienced it somewhere in life. Others figured it out early, and for others still it took an entire lifetime to realize. No matter what the circumstances, I am confident that this premise is built into our DNA.
I see generosity every day in my life. As a parent, I live it with my children. (Why else would I have happily changed so many diapers when my kids were younger?) As chief development officer, I see it in the multitude of individuals who make financial gifts to benefit our students. And in my time with students, I see it in so much of what they do—such as when so many recently spent their spring break helping others throughout the world with Project Serve. I can’t always quantify the giving spirit of these groups, but I know it’s there. I see it in their words, their actions, and their interactions with one another. I see them more loving, joyful, peaceful, kind, patient, and gentle. Some might recognize these as “Fruits of the Holy Spirit.”
How many times have we helped someone in need, yet come away feeling like it was us who gained the most? For readers of this magazine, this feeling is likely a frequent occurrence. Theodore Roosevelt Malloch provided a convincing rationale for this feeling when he said in his book, Being Generous, that “true giving is rooted not in reciprocity but in compassion.” Thus, when we meet the needs of others, we too feel joy.
I find it compelling that all of the world’s major spiritual and moral traditions express generosity to others as a basic moral virtue. According to one ancient sage in the Jewish tradition, charity is equal in importance to all other commandments combined. My own Christian faith provides countless instances that point to the virtue of generosity. It’s fair to say, for example, that God sees giving—sometimes out of prosperity and sometimes sacrificially—as a way to bless others. Pepperdine’s motto is another such example: Freely ye received; freely give. Matthew 10:8
The New Testament suggests that it is best to give freely and cheerfully— and without establishing any fixed percentage that should be given away. (This may come as a surprise to many.) A valuable interpretation of Scripture, as it relates to possessions, suggests that everything under heaven belongs to God, has been placed in our care, and should be shared with others, especially those in need. I find the words of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, most illuminating: “Make all you can; save all you can; give all you can.” Wesley believed that one should work hard and be paid fairly, be frugal in what he spent, and ultimately give most of what he earned to others. Many historians believe that Wesley lived on two percent of what he made while giving the other 98 percent away. Wow!
The concept of stewardship suggests that we are mere caretakers of all that we have been given, a concept I try to apply in every aspect of my own life. My colleagues have heard me say more than once that we are charged with being steadfast guardians of the generosity of others. The resources that we oversee directly impact our students, taking the form of scholarships, travel costs, books, art supplies, faculty support, or athletic uniforms. In every case, they change the lives of our students every single day.
I say all of this to remind us of the virtue of being generous. It’s part of who we are as humans. We were designed to want to help others, contrary to what our culture may tell us. If we live as though our possessions are not our own, serving as mere stewards, then sharing them with others is made easier. Let’s find worthy causes to support and give all we can. In doing so, not only will we make this world a better place, but we also may be surprised by the joy and satisfaction that comes back to us.