2 Selfish Reasons to Care about Developing Countries

Somewhere along the lines we decided that if we got something in return for being generous, then that wasn’t okay. For some reason it was thought that for an act to be a good thing to do then we should receive no benefit from it at all.

It’s an interesting thought and has led to hundreds of years of miserable generosity. So many people have been missing out experiencing the joy of giving purely because they thought it was wrong. There is a danger though. A danger of only doing a good thing for a completely selfish reason without concern for others at all. I think we can all admit that that behaviour feels wrong and we should probably avoid it.

In saying that, I consider some things too important to care about whether people are doing it for the right reason. Like ending poverty for example. Australia lives in amongst some of the poorest countries, they are our neighbours. Why should we care?

Well, here are two selfish reasons from Bill Gates:

  1. For Our Safety

It is to our benefit to see developing countries improve their income which improves education. Education equals stability, and less reason for radical idealisation and terrorism.

Also, and this is a big one, if we can overcome poverty in developing countries this will lead to improved healthcare and less disease because they will be able to diagnose and treat diseases more effectively (did someone say Coronavirus?). If we can equip all countries with the best medical care, it will literally save our lives down the track.

2. For Our Prosperity

This should be a no-brainer for us, living in a capitalist society and all. If we have more countries overcoming poverty, creating extra income, then all of a sudden we have hundreds of millions of new potential customers for our products. In short, history shows us that a richer Japan equals a richer world. What about a richer Indonesia, or India, or Pakistan? We are leaving money on the table.

There are other non-selfish reasons as well, but surely these two are pretty significant by themselves.

How we respond to tragedy shows who we are

When something touches our heart, we give. We respond to what creates an emotion. The greatest example of that has been the last few weeks when we have seen other Aussie families, people just like us, maybe someone that we know, or a friend of a friend, needing to evacuate because of an enormous fire or fires bearing down on their home. Many have lost their home; some have lost their lives. When this sort of tragedy happens to those that look like me, sound like me and, by sheer chance of choice of residence, could be me, it moves me to respond. So, we begin to imagine what it would be like if that was us – and if that did happen to me, I would really want someone to help.

The outpouring of generosity, volunteering, financial and emotional support, has been nothing short of extraordinary. Some have given out of their plenty, but many have given out of there little. People are working extra shifts and donating their pay for that day, business are donating their profits and entire communities are rallying together.

What does this tell me?

In the darkest of times it is generosity that shines the light. When we act for the benefit of someone else it brings out the best in us and our country, and it breaks down the harmful, artificial barriers that we put up between groups of Australians.

During times like these I am reminded that, no matter where we live, we are all one tragedy away from being forced from our homes, running for our lives and needing help from a stranger. It may not feel like that to you now, but I am sure 6 weeks ago thousands of Australians would never have imagined it either.

If we can take that attitude of humility with us into this next decade then Australia will continue to be a very generous nation indeed.

$$Happy New Year$$

Should we celebrate when people are suffering? We do it everyday so why should we stop now?

Last year the cost of putting the Sydney fireworks display was almost $6 million. That’s about $485,000 per minute, for a glorified light show. With so much need in the world, and now with so many people suffering through some of the worst bushfires we have had, should we be spending this much money on a consumable item?

I think yes. We should. We should celebrate together during the times of year when we normally celebrate as a culture. We should come together as Australians and stand shoulder to shoulder, facing 2020 stronger because we can celebrate and mourn at the same time.

Let’s look at what would happen if we cancelled the fireworks:

It would not bring homes back.

It would not bring lost ones back.

It would not restore the hectares that have been burnt.

It would not cause thousands of people to gather together for a single purpose.

It would save $6 million dollars. (But not really because the money has already been spent)

It would create a loss of $130 million for the city of Sydney. (That’s how much the event generates. Sometimes we get so caught up in the cost of something that we forget the cost of not spending the money).

Every day there are tragedies that take place all around us, but it is important to celebrate the good things, in spite of, or even because of, the tough things that happen.

Let us also participate in generosity during those times; we all have the ability to do something. It is not the sole responsibility of the governing bodies in Australia, we are each in charge of what kind of country we want to live in.

4 Ways to be Generous this Christmas

Whilst every day is filled with opportunities to be generous, Christmas is a time designed for people to participate in generous acts.

Here are 4 things that you can do to be part of it…

  1. Have a generous mindset.

It may sound simple, and it is, but it’s not easy. To approach people with a generous mindset is the start of all generous acts. Especially at this time of year people around us might say or do things that we think are quite stupid and we can write them off as unintelligent or unthoughtful. A generous mindset seeks to think of the best possible reason why someone would behave in a way that we don’t agree with. Maybe they are stressed, maybe they are rushed, or feeling unwell. There could be any number of reasons that we can’t see. We don’t have to agree with them or support their actions, but we can still see them as a person who worthy of grace.

2. Look Left and Right

I don’t know about you but I don’t see my neighbours that much. Our street is tiny, but I have little to no relationship with anyone who lives in our proximity. Christmas is a great time to change that, and an easy thing to do is to drop in on your neighbours with a small gift for them. There are many people who don’t have a great deal of family or friends around them at this time of year and it can be lonely. Drop in, say ‘Hi’ and be generous with your time.

3. Give a Gift on Behalf of Someone

We all have so much stuff, and the hardest question to answer at this time of year is “What do you want for Christmas?”

Instead of buying people more things, you can purchase a gift from a Charity Gift Catalogue for a family in a developing country, like a chicken or a duck, which helps them work their way out of poverty. You then receive a card which you can pass on to a family member or a friend, and tell them that their gift is helping end poverty. That is going to feel great, and it won’t clog up your house with more stuff. It doesn’t cost much at all.

4. Donate a Percentage

It doesn’t have to be much, but work out how much you have spent/will spend on Christmas presents this year and choose a percentage of that to give away to your favourite charity.

These are simple, yet effective, and they shift our focus beyond ourselves and the amount of presents under out tree, to how we can change people’s world through generous acts.

Merry Christmas!

It Shows the World We Want to Lead…or not

“Show me you calendar and your bank statement and I will show you your priorities.”

“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you want to become” James Clear

“How you do anything is how you do everything” James Bryant

You can tell quite a bit about a person by where they spend their time and where they spend their money. It shows you what they care about the most, even more so that what they say their priorities are. Words are easy but behaviour tells the full story and what we say our priorities are may not line up with reality.

It works on a national level as well. Australia sees itself as a global leader in all things promoting democracy and development. We want the world, especially the Asian region, to do well and for everyone to live safe and health lives…or so we say.

Our finances tell a different story. The past decade has seen an embarrassing decrease in the amount of assistance given to our neighbouring countries, so much so, that we are currently investing the lowest amount money to foreign aid in the history of foreign aid. We promised to get to place where we gave 0.5% of our budget to foreign aid. That’s 50c in every $100 earned. But we are currently giving 0.21%, or 21c in every $100 and it is unlikely to change.

It’s embarrassing, because we are being exposed for who we actually are on a global scale. The real leaders in the world are showing us up in their generosity. Sweden gives 1.1% of their Gross National Income, the UK gives 0.7%, Netherlands are at 0.65% and Germany are giving 0.41%.

We say we care about these things, but we don’t. We aren’t leading, in fact we are hiding. We are avoiding the difficulty of poverty in our region (our own back yard, so to speak) and hoping it goes away. History shows us that never works.

We must face it, lead the world in development and generosity and see positive change come as a result.

Not Just for Kids – A Simple ‘How-to’ Guide

We love the idea of teaching kids about being generous – because who wants to be the parent of ‘that selfish child’?

No one, that’s who.

But kids learn by osmosis. Just by being in the same proximity as their parents they pick up our patterns of behaviour and attitudes. If you don’t believe me, try swearing once around your small child. I guarantee that will become their new favourite word (or so I’m told, of course I wouldn’t know). Quite simple, if we are not generous then they won’t be.

So, quick, be generous!

But generosity is a muscle – it requires consistent practice. Try giving some money away to a person if you haven’t done it in a while. It’s painful, almost like working out for the first time in a few years.

Here is how we can find a way back to being the generous person we hope our kids turn into when they get older. It just takes some retraining of the ‘generosity muscle’, by doing the following:

  1. Start

This is the hardest part. Making a start. But it doesn’t have to be difficult. Take $5, set it aside and think about someone you love/like/tolerate/loathe and buy them a coffee. Just try it out, they may love it and be thankful, or they may tell you that they hate coffee and throw it in your face – it doesn’t matter either way. This is your training, not theirs.

2. Keep going

Now that you’ve made a start, find other ways to use $5 a week to make someone else’s day better. Coffee, snacks, a card or a small gift. $5 won’t buy much but the amount is not important, it is the intent behind it that matters.

3. Grow

Now that you are in the habit of being generous with $5 a week, take on the challenge of growing it. That can either be through multiple $5 acts of generosity or pooling more money together and making a larger impact on someone. A dinner perhaps, a donation to a charity, buying fuel for someone’s car or groceries for another family. Watch how people respond, but most importantly notice how you feel about yourself.

4. See Progress

Momentum builds and it changes the way you turn up in life. As you progress in your generosity journey, you will create different relationships with those around you because you are approaching them with a generosity mindset. You are becoming a different person now – a better version of you.

5. Bring a Friend

No one likes to travel alone…well some people do, but it’s still nice to have someone around sometimes. Find someone around you and take them on the journey of building their generosity muscle – it will change your life and theirs.

5 simple steps to work your generosity muscle and create a positive change in you, your kids and the world.

Have I missed something? I would love to hear from you!

It Made the News…

On one hand I’m surprised, but when I take the time to think about it, it doesn’t surprise me that much. I mean, weird things make the news.

This one was not so much weird, but almost unremarkable, comparatively.

A man in the north-west corner of the USA bought breakfast for himself and dozens of other people. He was eating alone and upon finishing his meal, on his way out he paid for his meal, and then the meal for every other person in the restaurant. He left before anyone found out.

It cost him a total of $200 and it impacted people so much that it made the local news. Whilst I am sure we would all agree that it was a wonderful act of generosity, was it newsworthy? Especially when we compare his gift of $200 to the millions that people give away each year – why is this a story and not something else?

Here is why I think that this act of generosity created such an impact.

It was breakfast. People love eating breakfast out, for me it is quite a treat. And if someone were to pay for that breakfast, then I would tell people about it.

It was random. People had no expectation that someone would pay for them. It is not a normal experience we encounter, especially a total stranger at another table eating breakfast.

It was immediate. The time between when the generous act was done and the financial impact on those in the restaurant was very close.

It was thoughtful. The recipients would have had many things they want to spend money on, and all of a sudden they have ‘extra’ money after not having to pay for their own breakfast. This experience would have felt like they actually made a profit.

It creates hope. Two types of hope; hope that maybe one day, someone will buy us breakfast too, but also hope that good people are still around, perhaps sitting at the table next to us without us knowing it.

I have done a similar thing before. After having dinner with a group of people, I paid for some of the meals of my friends as I left. To this day I don’t know if they know, or if the restaurant charged my friends after I left and got paid double. I do know that I feel weird about that memory, perhaps because I didn’t make it into the news.

Learning From Those You Don’t Like

You can learn from anyone. You can learn from everyone. No matter what age, gender, culture, background or life experience. There is always something you can learn. You can especially learn from the person that you respect the least.

To be able to do that requires a special kind of attitude that recognises that even if you disagree with someone about most things or dislike a person with a great deal of passion, they still have something to offer you. They can teach you something about something.

On the flipside, even if someone disagrees with you about most things or dislikes you with a great deal of passion, you have something to offer them. You can teach them something about something.

As with most things that are difficult, it requires an act of generosity. The act of generosity in this is to recognise the fact that learning can come from anyone, and then to seek it out. Of course, it is easier said than done, but it is an act of generosity towards others and towards yourself also.

Towards others because when you seek to learn from someone you actually communicate to them that they have value. What greater generosity could there be?

Towards yourself because in seeking to learn from someone else, especially someone that you don’t like, creates a posture of humility, ready to learn and ready to grow. That is an amazing gift for you.

Tunnel Vision

Do you remember the last time you were really hungry? Not just peckish, but actually ‘missed out on lunch, breakfast was small and now dinner is late’ type of hunger. It is painful, but probably the hardest thing is that the only thing that you can think about in that moment is food. You can smell it, taste it and imagine how it would feel just being close to a meal that is ready to eat. Sure, you try to distract yourself and think about something else, but when the image of the perfect hamburger pops up in your mind then it’s all over. It’s food and nothing else that has your attention.

If you have experienced that, or something like it, then you are not alone. It is the psychological phenomenon of scarcity. There was a study that was done on the impact on people when they live on a starvation diet. Over time they grew so weak and thin, as you would imagine, but the impact on the mind was what caught researchers by surprise. They discovered that all the participants could talk about was food. They memorised recipes, compared food prices and shared about their favourite meals. So they decided to distract them with a movie but all they could focus on was the meals that the characters in the movie were eating. They were so consumed by what they didn’t have, their lack, that they couldn’t focus on anything else. They couldn’t see the big picture.

Not having enough of what you need can become the only thing that matters to you.

That is why the work of Opportunity International is so powerful. Providing a small loan to mothers who can start a business and create an income overcomes the scarcity problem, allowing people to shift their focus to other important things and make wise decisions.

Heaping Coals

I grew up in a home of Christian faith, and I distinctly remember a part of the teaching about how to treat people who are against you, being your enemy. It said,

“If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”

I remember reading as an adult too, and, you’ve got to admit, that is a pretty weird statement. The image that this created in my mind was that of an antagonist and that God was actually suggesting to people who have enemies, ‘treat them nicely so that they get really angry and fume, that will be pretty funny’. I could never work that out.

I recently discovered that there was an Egyptian custom in which a person who had made an error and was wanting to make an amends, would carry a pan of coals on their head as a sign of their remorse, and the above teaching is likely to be in reference to that practice.

That changed some things for me. It turned an antagonistic philosophy and transformed it into a message of returning good for evil in the hope that someone who was actively out to harm you would be in a restored relationship with you. Now, I don’t know that repentance and restoration is a guaranteed outcome of giving food and drink to someone who hates you. There is always a risk in any act of generosity, especially one as this counter-intuitive (eye for eye, remember? That’s a whole other conversation…). But the possibility that you could bring something amazing out of something awful is worth it. Even if it only means that you don’t have to live with an active resentment towards the person, because the act of generosity towards them can shift your perspective.