I just "Liked" a group on Facebook called Knitting for Charity. For some reason, I am uncomfortable with that word (no, not knitting, the other one!). The word "charity" brings to my mind an association with the term Lady Bountiful (a character from an 18th century play by George Farquhar). According to The Free Dictionary, though, a Lady Bountiful is "a woman who enjoys showing people how rich and kind she is by giving things to poor people." Now, I haven't seen or read the play so I don't know if that is the way the character behaved, but the definition I just quoted reflects my understanding of the title, Lady Bountiful.
I don't wanna be a Lady Bountiful.
Now, it could be (probably is) that I'm way off base here. After all, Dictionary.com defines charity as "generous actions or donations to aid the poor, ill, or helpless" which sounds about right. I guess. I still have a problem with it.
I am much more comfortable with Malaak Compton-Rock's term, "service". In her book, If It Takes a Village, Build One (which I highly recommend, if you're interested in that kind of thing) the terms "humanitarianism" and "volunteer opportunity" are used. And the motto mentioned again and again is a quote by children's advocate Marian Wright Edelman: "Service is the rent we pay for living."
Now, those terms resonate with me. I have done some form of community service for most of my life, whether by going in person to spend time helping out in homes for the aged or working with school children, or by making things and sending them where they are needed. The Hebrew word most often used to mean "charity" is "tzedakah" but the original, biblical meaning of the word is "righteousness" or "justice".
Doing or giving because it is the right thing to do. Yes, that really reflects how I feel. And I think it reflects the motivation behind the actions of many people I know and admire, who also do the right thing, from their hearts, because they believe it is both an obligation and a privilege.