How's that for a leap of faith? Yet it is true.
When I started taking giving to charity as a serious commitment in my life, I was amazed to find how true it is. Raise after raise has come my way, promotion after promotion, one lucrative opportunity after another.
The cause and effect is an indirect one, to be sure, which makes it all the more challenging to imagine. Yet it does happen, through the long-term.
Therefore it was with great interest that I read the following article in the National Post, Canada a nation of cheapskates. I can look to my personal experiences and affirm, "this story is all-too true", whereas others may glance into their experiences and mutter, "this must not be true"... for the more it is true, the more false their clinging to a moral foundation for socialism.
Who can deny the mathematics establishing the article's sub-title, "In societies where governments have generous social programs, people give less to charities":
Americans give US$900 per person to charitable causes each year, while in Canada, the average is $400. In Quebec, the average is $176, the lowest amount of any province or territory.
In his new book Who Cares: America's Charity Divide -- Who Gives, Who Doesn't, and Why it Matters, economist Arthur C. Brooks compares the United States to western European nations and finds Americans give on average 14 times more than Italians, seven times more than Europeans and 3 1/2 times more than the French. "There is a view [in Europe] that if something is truly important, then government should be doing it and that discharges my duty to privately help others," says Mr. Brooks. "Maybe this explains something in Canada as well."
In his research, Mr. Brooks discovered those who believe government has little place in many areas of society -- many of them religious conservatives -- tend to give more to charity than liberals who push for greater taxation and more government involvement in social programs.
The same argument may explain Canada's divide.
"When you compare the giving rates between Quebec and Alberta [where average donor rates are $500 a year, the highest in Canada], they look like two very different countries," says David Van Slyke, a professor in the department of public administration at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, who studied at McGill University in the late 1980s.
"Alberta very much has a small-government philosophy, pro-market, pro-individual action, supporting those in need through private-sector dollars."
"In contrast, Quebec has a larger, more established public-sector presence and a much larger and stronger union environment, and each of these contributes to the expectation that it is government's role and responsibility to serve the poor, treat the unhealthy and provide some level of income security among the most fragile of
Beyond the views on government's role in society, a far more influential factor on patterns of giving is religion.
"Giving is a learned behaviour," says Mr. Brooks. "An effective place to learn giving is a house of worship, where you're getting the message week after week after week."
In Canada, 45% of the $9-billion raised for charity in 2004 went to religious organizations. The next highest amount -- 14% -- went to health care, which means that even with all those Terry Fox runs and hospital fundraisers and Walks for the Cure, religious organizations still pulled in three times as much across Canada, more than $4-billion.
Wealth in this country does not necessarily translate into largesse. Just ask Cyrille Esteve, better known as Spoonman, who has been clacking out traditional French-Canadian tunes in front of Ogilvy's on Ste-Catherine Street in Montreal for the past nine years. He makes $8 an hour in the regular season, but on Christmas Eve, his best day, his wage swells to $30 an hour.
"Pierre Elliott Trudeau used to give, but he'd give a quarter," he says. "Imagine, the man's a millionaire. And he'd drop pennies in my plate!"
A growing body of research indicates those who give are happier, healthier, more successful and earn more money.
"There is huge evidence that giving makes people more effective, it gives them more meaning and it makes them more successful," Mr. Brooks says.
"Part of the reason is that people who give feel so empowered and fulfilled -- they feel like they have a voice."
"Charitable giving is a valuable and unique form of expression, in a very different way from a ballot box or a picket sign," Mr. Brooks says.
"There's really no more profound way of expressing oneself humanely than doing that."