With the holidays just around the corner, it’s not hard to get into the spirit of generosity. But when all the parols are packed away, would giving still feel as warm and fuzzy?
To Jenny Santi, the Filipina author of the internationally renowned book The Giving Way To Happiness, the answer is yes. Using scientific research as well as her extensive background in advising top philanthropists—we’re talking Oscar winners, CEOs, and people “a hundred times richer than Madonna”—she turns the preconception of charity on its head. The book offers stories, strategies, and insights of people who have done things to help others sans the wealth and fame.
We sat with Jenny at the Philippine launch of her book to discuss what makes sharing with others feel so damn good all year-round.
Congratulations on your first book! Can you summarize the basic premise of The Giving Way to Happiness?
The book is about how giving changes the life of the giver. And there are five ways. Giving leads us to find our purpose; giving elevates our job to a calling; giving allows us to overcome; giving with our loved ones brings us closer to one another, and finally, giving gives us a sense of fulfillment beyond material success.
How would you define philanthropy?
If you look at the etymology of the language, [philanthropy] simply means “the love of mankind,” but somehow it evolved to mean “big-ticket giving.” And I’m sure the moment you hear that word, you think of Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and all these billionaires. So actually, I’ve come to dislike that word and prefer to use the word “giving.”
Aside from money, what other ways are there to be philanthropic?
It’s about giving one’s time, one’s talent, and one’s treasures—something else beyond oneself, not simply money. In fact, the gift of time is often more valuable to the receiver, and more fulfilling to the giver than the gift of money. Besides, we don’t all have the same amount of money, but we all do have the same 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we can give some of that time towards helping others, whether it’s a few hours a week or a few days per year.
What can the average person do to find the “joy of giving?”
Be proactive about it. Just as you would plan your own vacation, why don’t you think about giving in the same way? Ask yourself, “What do I care most about? What touches me? What bothers me?” It could be anything. Maybe you care about animals, little children, older people, the environment—it’s different for everyone. It doesn’t necessarily mean you give all your money, or give any money, period. You could start by getting informed and getting involved.
What kind of giving makes you happy these days?
This [book] has been my giving project. I’ve given so much of my time and my resources. I literally quit my job to write a book. I had an idea and was obsessed with putting this idea out. I knew it had the potential to inspire other people.
Even though it was so difficult—I didn’t know anyone in publishing, I had never written a book, and it was a long journey that took almost three years—I persevered. So what makes me happy is when I share this message, and I see people nodding, and when I hear people tell me that this [message] makes them think of what they should be doing, or reaffirms what they’re already doing. I’m encouraged by that.
Jenny Santi’s The Giving Way To Happiness (P755) is available in paperback at National Book Store.For more information, visit their website.