The Spirit of Giving

As written for Santa Clara University’s Big Q blog – The Spirit of Giving

Despite returning to classes, final presentations, and exams this week, many students, including myself, continue to exude that post-Thanksgiving glow.  We have happiness leftovers. The holiday’s warmth and joy remains within us, like the excess turkey and mashed potatoes that fill our fridges.  We’ve spent a week surrounded by friends and family, laughing, reuniting, feasting, and expressing gratitude.

However, how long will this feel-good Turkey Day attitude last? Especially with winter holiday season on the immediate horizon, and with so much talk about thanks, thankfulness, and giving thanks, we must ask ourselves, what are the ethical implications of giving?

I’m a fulltime student, and college isn’t cheap. Besides tuition payments, excess expenses for extra-curricular activities, gas, and the costs of just day-to-day life,  I work several on-campus jobs for spending money. Am I obligated to donate this money? Isn’t my money hard earned? Many students juggle the fine ethical line between supporting others and supporting themselves.

On my driving route to and from campus, I regularly pass a homeless man or woman on the interstate turnoff, holding a dilapidated sign and asking for spare change. Despite my gut feeling, my urge to help, I keep on driving—and I don’t think that I’m alone. Why?

At a Jesuit institution like Santa Clara University, the faculty and staff strive to educate the “whole person” on spiritual, emotional, and intellectual level.  Students learn the importance of competence, conscience, and compassion. From an academic standpoint, we enroll in courses that incorporate social justice, ethics, and community involvement. In business classes, we study corporate responsibility, and a company’s obligation to act and transact in a manner that benefits the society at large.

Maybe, we should flip around the logic. Let’s look at individuals, ourselves, and not entities.

What are we doing to give back to the community? Are we fulfilling our civic duty?

And, more importantly, what are the ethics implications behind social responsibility?

This holiday season, I encourage everyone to “pay it forward,” to keep the Thanksgiving joy alive. A holiday gift to ourselves and to the community—keeping this powerful momentum of giving constant throughout both December, and the rest of the year.

Happy Holidays!

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