Joy of Giving

We give because it makes us feel good. It’s the joy of being able to make a gift. That joy is powerful, and in philanthropy it’s furthera woman standing and smiling amplified by the human connections we make.
On a recent trip to Malawi I visited an HIV/AIDS Testing and Counseling Center where I met Shelly Raphael.  Shelly is in charge of testing people for HIV at the center. When I asked Shelly to help me comprehend the immense value of her program, I expected to hear about numbers, ages, and gender counts. Instead she invited me into the counseling room where she was about to test a young pregnant woman. I was allowed to observe how Shelly affectionately held the woman’s hand, how she carefully ensured that the needle would not hurt, how her questions displayed genuine interest in the patient’s overall well-being, and ultimately how she conveyed a life-altering diagnosis to a young mother-to-be. What I saw was a highly skilled, compassionate person guiding this woman through the acceptance of her biggest fear.

Later that day Shelly told me that her organization was about to run out of the test-kits needed to diagnose. She explained that if someone tests HIV-positive, an immediate referral to the hospital brings the patient access to life-prolonging medication (ARVs). The medication slows or even stops the progression of HIV, and prevents the transmission of the virus from a pregnant mother to her unborn child. I asked if the test-kits were for sale. Shelly replied that $100 would buy enough kits to last until the next government-supplied kits would arrive. Of course I immediately gave her the $100.

Although the quantity of the tests made possible through my modest gift was interesting, the real reason to wholeheartedly give that money, the best $100 I have ever spent, was Shelley’s approach. That and her passion to really care for people and her conviction that things will indeed get better for her community if she has anything to do with it. And she does.

I am unsure how Shelly’s drive and empathy would ever be captured in a statistic, or how you would quantify the tremendous joy I still feel ten months after making this gift. Philanthropy helps us understand our purpose. It feeds our insatiable hunger for hope. And although I would never argue against the importance of measuring efficiency and reach, I suggest we keep in sight the humanity and joy that we find in giving. Sure it is hard to measure, but it is even harder to ignore.