Giving is more than an activity. It is a way of life and a beacon in the search for hope in troubled times. There is great turmoil today, but these are not unusual times, not in the span of human history. The wisdom of the ages is especially important to help us set our path and purpose.
Such wisdom comes from the 12th-century philosopher known as Maimonides. Born in Córdoba, Spain, he and his family went into exile in Morocco to escape religious persecution. As a young man, he mastered Aristotle, astronomy, and later medicine. After moving to Cairo, Maimonides became known as the city’s greatest rabbi, producing tomes of commentary on the Torah, and he lived out his final days as a renowned doctor.
But his greatest gift to humanity captured his thoughts about giving itself. His Eight Levels of Charity is a masterpiece that teaches us about what giving means and what motivates us to do it.
The bottom rung of Maimonides’ ladder is giving out of pity or grudgingly. The next step up is giving less than one should, but doing so cheerfully. Climb up to the fifth rung and you are giving before being asked. Further up the ladder is giving in a way that the receiver does not know who the giver is. The eighth and highest level of charity is to anticipate distress and giving to avoid or prevent it.
When we immunise children against polio, we are anticipating potential illness. We do so with other efforts, such as Rotary projects that reduce the incidence of malaria or cervical cancer.
When we teach someone a profession that enables them to earn a living, we apply the eighth step. From microfinance to education, The Rotary Foundation helps us give the gift of self-reliance.
All of this good work awaits us, as does the work of supporting newborns, cleaning water sources, recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic, and countless other efforts we lead.
I am proud to say that many Rotary members climb to the top of Maimonides’ ladder. Many of them do so anonymously. Whoever they are and for whatever reason they share their gifts with the Foundation, I thank them.
As an organisation, Rotary climbs that ladder as well. Every one of your donations helps us reach higher levels. As we climb this ladder as one, we gain a wider perspective. We see all those who need to be uplifted as well as the countless opportunities we have to help them in Rotary. And as we do so, we find our own meaning and purpose.
K R Ravindran
Foundation Trustee Chair