The Best Gifts

By William MacAskill, Co-founder of the Effective Altruism Movement [1]

Giving gifts to loved ones is great; it’s a rewarding way to spread joy and strengthen friendships and family ties.  But at this time of year I’m always reminded of how many people not only get no presents but also lack the basics to allow them to live healthy lives.  For me, luxury [gifts are great];for the world’s poorest, it would be nutritious food, clean water, and health care.

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The poorest 10% of the world’s population, some 700 million, live on less than $1.90 per day. And that’s adjusting for local purchasing power: they live on what $1.90 would buy in the U.S. Faced with this kind of budget, and often geographically isolated, they are forced to eat whatever they can find, and drink and wash in unsafe water. They can only pray that they don’t succumb to malnutrition, malaria or any number of diseases that, while perfectly curable in rich countries, frequently ruin or end lives in the developing world.

I don’t seek to make anyone feel guilty for exchanging luxury goods with the people they love. But it seems to me that there’s another type of giving that is, if anything, even more profound; giving the basics of life to those most in need. Sure, you might not get a thank-you letter, but you’ll have done something extraordinary. However, I’m not just interested in people giving more to charity (although that is important). I’m also passionate about people giving smarter, because where you give can make a huge difference on the impact you’ll have.
[1] Time magazine, 14 Dec 2015

This entry was posted in food, humanism, Social Justice, Welfare and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Best Gifts

  1. Susan says:

    Can’t we do both? I love to give gifts as a way of taking time out of life to express love and appreciation to my friends and family. It takes a moment to show you CARE. No vast amount of expense is necessary. Just a token.

    I once accompanied a friend who spent time and energy buying and gifting for numerous coworkers and charities that had meant something to this person. However, in all the hustle and bustle, they didn’t remember me. How do I sound disappointed without sounding like a spoiled brat? I don’t. But it taught me a lesson. My expectations were lowered and I no longer expect a thing, which takes the pressure off of all.

    In the meantime, for every dollar you give locally, ensure you match it with charity, service, and love. To me, that makes my small pittance of help seem like a win-win for all.

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