Fast forward to my last birthday, when I received a lovingly wrapped box form my husband. He was on the edge of his seat with anticipation. I opened the box and ... it was a motorcycle helmet. "Now we can go riding together," he cooed. I was overcome with emotion, but not in a good way.
Have you ever received a gift like that, one that's really doing more for the giver than the receiver? We've probably all given such a gifts and, while the intention is usually good, it is a trap many of us, consciously or not, have fallen into. And it's not just giving gifts. This way of thinking permeates many other areas of our lives. Take charitable giving for example.
Done well, charity can make a real difference to the lives of the giver and receiver. Done badly it's a waste of time and money that makes us feel better without actually helping. But there's any easy way to make your charity more effective for the people on the receiving end that also allows you to feel good while doing it.
There are two key questions you should ask yourself before you give to charity. The first is; where should I focus my efforts? The second is; how can I ensure I will really benefit the people I want to help?
For the first question there is a golden rule of giving that you can apply. It's involves identifying the problem you want to solve, understanding the obstacles to overcoming the problem, and defining the solution to overcoming the obstacle. It's easy, P.O.S.
So, for the sake of argument let's say you want to help improve the lives of orphan children in Asia. That's the problem you've identified. The obstacle appears to be that children who have lost their parents live in poor conditions in far off countries with no hope for the future. So the solution seems obvious; give money to orphanages to make the children's lives better or, better still, go and volunteer at an orphanage, or both.
So let's assume you do both, and let's apply the P.O.S test and see if you've made a good choice in what cause to support and how you go about it. And here I can speak from personal experience.
My daughter volunteered on a school service trip in an orphanage in Sri Lanka for a week. She was one of twenty eager children from her school ready to save the world.
In Sri Lanka, she hugged, fed, and read to the young orphans. She grew to care deeply about these young children, and they her. She was heartbroken when she left. The children cried and held onto her leg when she tried to board the bus never to return again.