Giving: A Tale as Old as Time
In its original form, the word philanthropy, from the Greek philanthropia, implied a love towards humankind. The word’s meaning has changed over time, but the fact of the matter is that the continuity and progress of human civilization has arisen from humans working together and the kindness of strangers.
In fact, if we look closely many of our myths and stories are centred around these ideas of giving and more importantly giving freely to those whom we perceive to be in need.
If we look at our epics, both the Mahabharata and the Ramayana have many episodes that talk about the giving, two that stand out seem to be the Sabari episode in the Ramayana, and Karna giving up his golden armour and earrings to a beggar he perceived to be in need.
Though a later interpolation, the Sabari episode as etched in public memory is one that sees the poor, tribal woman, who is a devotee of Ram serve him fruit that is already tasted. The simplest idea etched in the narrative is that of giving, giving as our capacity allows, and of being motivated by love in this act.
The Karna episode points to another side of giving.; giving as a duty, when one comes from a position of privilege, to recognise that privilege and use it to help someone who we may perceive to be in need. Karna’s generosity and benevolence are known through the land, and it this weakness that Indra exploits to gain his golden armour and earrings that make him invincible on the battlefield. Indra comes to him as a poor beggar and asks Karna to give his armour and earrings away to him, as alms, and Karna who sees it as his duty to help anyone who is less fortunate than him, agrees. While the result of this goodness, is that he is now vulnerable, it points more firmly at the virtue of giving.
On the other side of the world, a tale from Hawaiian mythology featuring their fire goddess Pele, also stresses on the importance of being kind to strangers, where Pele disguises herself as an old woman and asks two couples for some food, while one couple agree, the other couple refuse outright to help her out. Of course, the angry goddess curses the couple who refused to aid her and rewards the one who feed her despite their constraints, it becomes a lesson in never ignoring people who are more vulnerable than us.
In fact, it’s not just mythology but fairy tales across the world posit this idea of kindness by and towards strangers as a virtue. One of the lesser popular tales of the Brothers Grimm, The Elves and The Shoemaker brings up a similar theme, when a poor shoemaker and his wife who were struggling to make ends of meet, are visited by kindly elves who help the elderly couple out by creating marvellous shoes for them, that bring customers from far and wide towards them.
If our most enduring of tales encourage giving, there must be something to it. At Genesis Foundation we encourage a culture of giving to ensure that those less fortunate than us can have access to quality healthcare. We are a foundation working for children who have Congenital Heart Defect, and little hearts childcare is at the heart of our mission. We would love to have you onboard and contribute to our cause.
Do you want to read more stories that encourage you to share and give, here’s a great website that you can use as a resource with stories from around the world:
If you want to make a difference today and GIVE towards the many hearts under our wing, visit -