The Gift of Giving

The Gift of GivingA business executive knows that every transaction which his or her enterprise makes must be directly or indirectly profitable. An expenditure of time, labor, and/or money which is not recompensed with at least equal value- money, or goods and services which will allow money to be made- is a foolish move. This is how businesses work.

Humans don’t work in the same way- we don’t coldly calculate the profitability of every action (many, yes, but not all). At times we do things simply for pleasure, and in many instances we help others with no mind for personal gain; however in reality neither of these types of actions is as anti-economic as it may seem. Our pleasure- of which there are many different types- may be regarded as our profits, and “giving” has the potential to be a very rewarding action.

Giving is that action which doesn’t fit into the quid pro quo model of thinking; however, even though when we give we don’t expect to gain anything in return, we often do receive benefits which are not easily quantifiable. The act of giving in itself can be a very rewarding experience, often referred to as the “gift of giving.”  It rewards us with that elusive currency of pleasure which no economic system is capable of evaluating. The joy which we can provide to others through an act or a material present is often well-worth the time, labor, or money which it costs us. We might not be able to economically verify this fact, but all human beings surely know it.

Beyond the immediate joy, giving also has more long-term effects. Giving creates stronger bonds between us and others, bonds which in the future may or may not produce fruit because, just as we are willing to give to others, others are willing to do the same for us. Furthermore, when our gifts go beyond simple one-time presents to long-term services which effectively strengthen those around us, we create an environment in which all, including ourselves, can flourish. This is the secret of prospering in a community- the good of others is also the good of oneself.

This is not a revolutionary idea- people with strong families, in well-off communities, with supportive friends, are more likely to succeed- and associations of people often follow the same principles. A basketball team wants to win its conference, but it also realizes that the strength of its conference is its fortune. A town may be happy to be economically superior to surrounding communities, but it knows that extreme poverty for its neighbors would sooner or later spell disaster for itself.  This reality means that the basketball team could find itself cheering on its archrivals against a non-conference team and that a town might offer services which are available to residents of neighboring towns as well. Do profit-oriented businesses follow the same rules?

The Boston Language Institute finds that giving can be a positive venture for all involved. The Institute offers free language classes to foreigners. Supervised trainees teach the classes for free, thus gaining valuable teaching experience which will help them construct a career while the foreigners learn English- without any monetary exchange. The classes are also a service to the community-at-large:  The improved communication skills of the students will be a boon not only for themselves but also for the people with whom they interact at work, at the supermarket, in their apartment building, and anywhere else. A stronger, more functional community can only be a good thing for businesses, which need clients who have the resources- money and time- to purchase goods or services from them. Businesses in Boston owe much of their success to the community itself. In the end The Boston Language Institute reaps the rewards from the seeds of giving which it sows.

The power of giving for businesses might be a hard argument to buy because it is not easily quantifiable, but truly smart businesses in the 21st Century will start to act a little more like humans, who realize that not each and every action can be repaid instantly and equally.

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