by Emily Schroder, Better Together @ UNF Vice President and UNF Interfaith Center Intern
Better Together @ UNF revolves around the importance of service and charity- of working together towards improving our community and helping our fellow human beings. As UNF Better Together’s vice president, I have seen much proof of service and charity acting as catalysts for peace between students of different religious and secular beliefs. It encourages cooperation, dialogue, and love. Always love.
Last Thursday’s (January 16th) Text Study Better Together focused on the topic of charity as expressed in the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian holy texts. Interestingly, all three texts had very similar things to say about charity. Our speakers agreed that, at the core, all of these texts explained charity as an integral part of spirituality- an action that is necessary. Charity is not something that gains you a higher status; charity does not make you supreme. Charity is the bare minimum- it is expected of us as Muslims, Christians, and Jews. As one presenter noted, doing charity does not place you higher on the scale of “goodness.” It places you in neutral, because to do anything less would simply be wrong. Charity is not a nice, good, or extravagant thing to do. It is the righteous thing to do. It is the bare minimum. It is expected of us.
For me, this idea hit home. Engaging in service and charity does not make me an amazing selfless person. It doesn’t place me higher on the “awesome” scale. Pride, expectations, and reward should not be a part of my decisions to be charitable. I should be charitable because of just that- I should be. However, I rarely do community service unless it’s with Better Together at UNF. I rarely go out of my way to volunteer at soup kitchens or libraries, and I certainly don’t have spare cash to donate to a church or to a cause. However, I do have a different kind of charitable arsenal at my grasp.
I have words. I have time. I have love.
I can share openly and unendingly of all of these things. One student made a poignant comment that charity can be as simple as sharing a smile. My form of charity can be listening and talking to those who need to be engaged, or an offering of a home-cooked meal and board games to someone who is feeling alone. I may not have tons of money or power, but I do have other resources. And according to our speakers from the Text Study, to not be charitable with these resources would be less than neutral. Less than what is necessary.