Reports from Myanmar point to a country on the brink of economic collapse, following a military coup four months ago that led to mass dissent, violent crackdown and possible civil war. Yet despite this adversity, the people of Myanmar live up to their reputation as one of the most selfless people in the world. According to other reports, they have stepped up donations of food and money to the poor and protesters.
“They are happy when we donate food. Some even cry, ”a volunteer from a new food bank in Yangon told Agence France-Presse. The increase in charity stems from the Burmese tradition of religious giving and caring, known as parahita. “Our greatest weapon is the strong desire of the people. No other weapon is needed, ”a member of the Get Well Soon charity group told Myanmar Today.
The Southeast Asian country is just the latest example of benevolent love to live up to the occasion in turbulent times. In the United States, which experienced three major upheavals last year – a recession, people’s lives turned upside down by the pandemic and protests for racial justice – charitable giving has reached record levels. Americans gave $ 471 billion, a 3.8% increase from the previous year after adjusting for inflation, according to the “Giving USA” report from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at the University of Indiana.
During most recessions, donations to the United States decline. But with the stock market rising and Americans responding to both COVID-19 and the call for racial justice, they’ve asked for their checkbooks and Venmo accounts to donate. In particular, charities that focus on basic needs saw their donations increase by 8.4%. Food banks have seen their donations double. And, according to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, the total number of individual donors increased by 7.3%.
The increase in donations came even as the percentage of Americans who belong to a church, synagogue or mosque fell below 50% for the first time. Among 18-30 year olds, the rate of donations to causes doubled in 2020 compared to the previous three years, according to a survey by the Cause et Influence Sociale group.
Globally last year, more than half of adults helped someone they didn’t know – the highest level on record – according to the 2021 Global Giving Index. And the level of giving was higher than in the previous five years.
“The health of a democratic society can be measured by the quality of the functions performed by individuals,” remarked the 19th century Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville after observing American society. But the future of a society can also be judged on its ability to respond to adversity with compassion and generosity.