This Week: The Spirit of the Season

A colleague and I were commiserating recently about the hectic nature of the holiday season. We lamented that there are too many gifts to buy, too many gatherings to attend and too much food to eat. The most wonderful time of the year almost sounded like a burden.

Before we went too far, I offered an observation. “There are people in the world who would be very happy to have your problems,” I noted. The conversation quickly turned, benefitting from the perspective.

The economic news this year could scarcely have been better. Strong growth, low inflation and rising asset prices in major markets will make 2017 one of the most successful years in recent memory. But these broad measures mask some less than uplifting trends beneath the surface. 2017 was also a notable year for natural and humanitarian disasters that challenged communities across the globe.

Fortunately, the world has a lot of kind hearted people who want to help. According to the annual report from the Charities Aid Foundation, nearly half of the world’s population volunteers time and/or money to help others.

U.S. citizens give the largest share of national income to charity, more than double the rate of the next-closest country. Some have hypothesized that the relatively narrow social support system in America raises the need for giving, but international studies have shown no correlation between the scale of state support and the level of private contributions.

Giving is a form of investing… in a community. Funds are used to feed and shelter those less fortunate, many of whom face challenges most can only imagine. Funds are used to reinforce education for children and adults and give them access to health care services. Funds are used to support arts, music, and the dissemination of information that enriches our lives.