Helen Lee Schifter on Giving Back in a COVID World

During the current economic climate, so many are hurting. We’ve all seen the ways in which the Coronavirus pandemic has tragically decimated small businesses and the jobs of those in the hospitality, entertainment and related industries. But as Helen Lee Schifter has pointed out, it’s during these most challenging times that the American people come together to help one another.

After all, that’s the true definition of philanthropy. It’s about giving of oneself (however that may be defined, according to the person), under the most challenging of circumstances. And there is no question that the American spirit is the embodiment of generosity. Always exercising selflessness in one’s conduct to others. Certainly in these economically depressed times, giving financially to help another might not be available or even possible for many; and that’s understandable. But it is a mistake and a misconception that has been perpetuated for far too long, that somehow philanthropy ought to be limited to financial giving.

Helen Lee Schifter has sought to promote a better understanding of the true definition of philanthropy through her writing. As Helen maintains, it’s not at all meant to belittle the importance of one making financial contributions. That too is important; and undoubtedly valuable, commendable and laudatory. But there are so many other ways that one can give of themselves to help another that ought to be explored with an equal amount of vigor and enthusiasm. In this way, philanthropy need not be viewed as an act that can only be conducted by a restricted few with tremendous wealth at their disposal. Rather, it can be viewed (as it should be), as a universal gesture that can be done by anyone, no matter their financial or other circumstances.

Beyond just giving a check to one’s charity of choice, which once again is a wonderful gesture that is justifiably viewed upon favorably, giving of one’s time to various causes is also incredibly important to consider. Helen herself has written about the value of contributing not only one’s time to help out in a soup kitchen, a food pantry or in other contexts; but also giving of one’s skills or talents. Of course, this is of incredible value to the local community and helping spark some well-deserved relief on the part of those that are underserved and underprivileged.

Giving of one’s talents or skills that might be unique on their own accord is also an incredibly noble endeavor that can be amazingly impactful. Certainly not something to gloss over, nor to discourage. On the contrary, it’s something that should be encouraged and promoted. For instance, if one has an academic background with practical skills concerning teaching and education, one might be able to use the current time to help mentor and guide students from underprivileged families with their academic course-work. Perhaps even help teach them extra languages and other skills that they wouldn’t ordinarily receive in normative circumstances in a classroom setting.

Indeed, it is the case that giving back during times of economic hardship is of incredible importance. But giving transcends financial giving. The beauty of the nature of giving is that it’s an ability that extends to everyone and transcends racial, ethnic and social classes. We thank Helen Lee Schifter for her unique insights on this ever so important and timely subject.