A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Lauren and Rob Hudson: Positive messages for youth about exceptionalism through charity

Columns for families based on the book It Can Be Done @studentsleadusa

If somebody describes America as a selfish or greedy country, we shouldn’t fall for it.

Tens of millions of Americans have made charity a priority throughout their lives. Most assistance for people who needed it traditionally came from family, churches and charity. Partly because of neighbors pitching in to help neighbors, we have many blessings and gifts in America.

In 2017, a Philanthropy Roundtable study revealed that Americans have become nearly twice as generous as most other industrialized nations, including nearly fifty times more charitable than China. A 2011 global study by the Charities Aid Foundation revealed that America led the world in acts of charity. The Giving USA Foundation estimates our total charitable giving exceeded $400 billion a year in 2017.

But what about those big businesses which some people don’t like, saying they earn too much money? Do they help people through charities? It’s amazing what many businesses do for their communities. In 2015 and 2016, the Giving USA Foundation estimated corporate cash and non-cash charitable donations at over $18 billion each year.

It’s not just about money; it’s also about the time we give.

The Corporation for National and Community Service reported that in 2012 about 64.5 million Americans donated 7.9 billion hours of volunteer service. The “value” of these services exceeded $150 billion a year. Nearly 1/3 of adults donate some of their time to organizations who help people.

By donating or volunteering, we have the opportunity to “get” as much or more than we “give” by helping others. In life, and with charity, helping others can lead to happiness. The London School of Economics did a study and learned that volunteers reported happiness. They found that the more the participants donated, the happier they became. Poet and Author Maya Angelou said it well. “I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back.”

How can we set the stage to live lives which include helping others? We should begin by getting our lives mostly in order. This way we will have the time to help. When we don’t have money (and even when we do), we can donate time. With our lives mostly in order, if we do well with money, we can donate part of it. Over our lifetimes, we can be a part of helping tens of thousands of people.

As we think about what we should do through acts of charity, we shouldn’t make the mistake of assuming someone else or the government will help all the people who need help. As Senator Hubert H. Humphrey said, “The impersonal hand of government can never replace the helping hand of a neighbor.” Our helping hands are needed and using them is one of our greatest ways to succeed in life.

Some people don’t feel patriotic about America, but our commitment to charity is something about which we can be proud. There’s nothing wrong with quietly celebrating and encouraging the generosity of our citizens. It’s a big part of what makes America exceptional.

Join us next week when we explore common ground related to the importance of competition. Frost Brown Todd LLC Member Rob Hudson is a Past Chair of the Northern Kentucky Chamber and a recipient of its Frontiersman Award. 2018 Independent Author of the Year Lauren Hudson is a Singletary Scholar at the University of Kentucky.

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