Defining “humanitarian” is at once easy and difficult for me. It is easy in that I think the simple phrase “good human” fits the bill but also begs the question, what is a good human?
What we are is the sum of what we do. Here is a list of three essential activities good humans do.
- Give generously. There is no bright-line above or below which one becomes or ceases to be a good human based on charitable giving. Everyone’s situation is different. Some of the most generous people I know have little but share anyway. Some who get credit for being philanthropists aren’t. Real generosity stings a bit–but only for a moment.
- Serve actively. By pairing your time with your money, both have more impact. You learn more by volunteering your time to your favorite causes than by donating money. Seldom does your money report back with the kind of information you can gain by spending a few hours in the trenches. The more money you have, the more you benefit from service.
- Be kind always. This is the hardest one for me personally. It isn’t my nature. The more I practice, however, the more joy I find. With a tiny bit of effort, I can smile at someone. With a bit of extra kindness, I can see them smile. (No, this does not mean asking young women to smile!) Learning to be kind brings joy to my life that I didn’t realize was missing.
Take a moment now to think about times when you have done each of these things. Really. Do it. Sit with the memories. Start with giving generously to a cause or a person. Remember the feelings. Remember the outcomes. Then do the same for a time your service especially mattered to the people you served. Ponder the experience. Finally, try to think of a time you were kind in a routine situation that you changed with kindness.
You are a good human. You are a humanitarian. Keep it up!