Giving and giving back are very personal. Some of the wealthiest people in the world are often moved to write big checks while others take a “not so fast” stance.

If you wear the hat of a fund raiser, the first position with a potential donor should be that it is his/her money and they can damn well do with it what they please. You best try to lead him/her to water and “hope” he/she drinks.

Some cannot escape the shackles of greed while others succumb to giving you the shirt off their back. The charitable message of author J. K. Rowling overwhelms. This lady became a billionaire whose name was prominent on the Forbes list of billionaires but lost her listing with Forbes when she gave $160 million to charity. “You have a moral responsibility when you have been given more than you need to do wise things with it and intelligently,” she once said.

Many coaches, who now hold membership in the multi-million-dollar club, have started foundations which support charities which do good works in their communities. There are a number of super-star pro athletes who fund foundations that are all about sharing their wealth. However, there are those who are motivated to build the biggest house on the block and park multiple automobiles in the driveway.

The story goes that one NFL defensive lineman who came into millions as a top draft pick and within months had purchased an assortment of cars and trucks. His garage could not hold the eight vehicles he purchased in short order. “Oh, that makes sense,” said a teammate. “With all those vehicles, he is entitled to fleet coverage.”

Let’s raise a toast to all those with a bent toward supporting charity. Altruism is not restricted to the well-to-do, however! What about the social workers who have difficulty making ends meet, yet devote their lives to trying to help others survive and to make their way in life? I remember a millionaire who became an advocate of meals-on-wheels. Not only did he invest into the program, he made deliveries. He wrote charitable checks and then rang doorbells with baskets of food under his arm.

There is likely somebody in your neighborhood who has a bent for giving which you may or may not know about. Oft times the most sensitive givers remain anonymous.

However, three of the richest men in the word—Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and George Soros—give big and, while they don’t boast about it, are happy for people to know what they donate, hoping to set an example for others. In fact, Buffett has directed a large portion of his wealth to Bill and Melinda Gates for them to give away.

Soros has a net worth of $8 billion dollars, down from the past, and has given $32 billion to charity. Buffett has a net worth of $61 billion and has a box score of $21.5 billion in donations. Gates is worth $84.2 billion and has made charitable donations of $27 billion. This threesome apparently agrees with J. K. Rowling.

There is no constancy when it comes to giving, however. I knew of a well-heeled guy who was reminded that he could not take his wealth with him. He replied. “Yes, but my wife can bring it when she comes.”

There is a colorful story about a new minister taking over an old established church in a well-to-do community. He was appalled by the church’s state of disrepair. There were many rich members of the church, but his lead elder appraised the membership thusly: “They got it but they won’t part with it.”

The elder happened to be an electrician which caused the minister to come up with a plan whereby the elder-electrician wired the pews where the most affluent members sat. At the next Sunday service, the minister announced there would be a building campaign with a goal to raise $5 million dollars to spruce up the church.

With that he asked all those who would give a hundred thousand dollars to stand. He reached under the pulpit and pushed a button, causing several members to jump to their feet. The minister thanked them and then asked for those who would give $50,000 to stand. Another group jumped up; then he called for those who would give $25,000, $10,000 and $1,000 and began glorying in the results.

Upon meeting with the elder after the service, the minister smiled and asked, “How did we do?” The elder replied, “Not bad, we raised four million, nine hundred and 99 thousand dollars and there is one dead Scotsman.”

Loran Smith is a UGA announcer and a columnist for Mainstreet Newspapers.

(1) comment

Dave Altman

Another great column from Loran Smith. He's captured the importance of unselfish giving which, at its core, is at the heart of American spirit. Wealthy individuals (like the Gates', Mr. Buffett & Ms. Rowling, who make charitable giving a part of their life are not only to be admired, but emulated. Whether it's to our church or to our community, we should welcome the chance to support causes that help others. I loved Mr. Smith's story about the buzzers in the pews--and hopefully none of us will need that kind of 'shock' to stand up for what is right!

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