In a world that is so embroiled with greed and corruption, ‘simple living and high thinking’ has become a virtue of the past. In this materialistic world, we all aspire for more – better and bigger houses, cares, comforts and luxury – that only money can buy. But most of us never ever think about the person on the street who is dying of hunger, because we have preferred to live by denying others the material prosperity that we would like to have for us. Even if we think about them and feel pity, we don’t know how to act to help. Art of Giving is indispensable in such circumstances and materialistic living. Unlocking Art of Giving in all can create waves of happiness for self and for the society.
Art of Giving is all about creating unconditional and sustainable abundance of love, peace, happiness and contentment for others through gestures of kindness and generosity. This epiphany inspired me to form a not-for-profit initiative for spreading, supporting and promoting practice of the art of giving around the world from 17th May 2013. The journey of Art of Giving in my life started back from a young age when I sowed the seeds of love and care as a child, despite having been pushed to the mire of abject poverty due to the untimely demise of my father. Throughout my childhood, starting from the age of 5, I lent support to my mother and gave her solace. I even shared my hard-earned wage with the hungry and the needy village urchins.
With a vision of a poverty-free, hunger free and illiteracy free world and the mission to serve the society, I began investing every penny of my meagre earning as soon as I started my professional career. I invested all that I had harvested from my enterprises for the human community to receive larger and larger harvests year after year. I founded the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology University (KIIT) and Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS), a venture that has the distinction of being the world’s largest residential institute for the tribal children and educates more than 70,000 poor tribal children stands to testify my vision of life and the art of giving. All my achievements are due to the habit of Art of Giving. Sharing everything that I own has become my passion.
“One must be poor to know the luxury of giving”. For me, compassion is a two-way street. For all the sorrow, poverty and distress in this world, there are unlimited ways of helping- for making a positive difference. Every religion upholds the art of giving and spreading happiness and peace, the things that have inspired me somewhere during my struggles of life to work on. Religion disseminating material goods is just one form of generosity. One can always extend an attitude of generosity into one’s behaviour. I had always wanted to work for the people and God has blessed me with that power and intention to do so.
Needless to say, charity is an important tenet of every religion, because compassion is essential for spiritual life. In Indian scriptures, ‘daan’ or charity occupies a very prominent place. Every religion preaches the same ideology of philanthropy, be it the Quran’s “sadaqa” or “zakat” , Buddhism’s charity to the needy; Jainism’s charity of offering food, saving lives of others in danger, distributing medicine and spreading knowledge; Judaism’s Tzedakah meaning justice or righteousness to denote charity; Christianity’s expression of charity as an essential component of faith and Zoroastrianism that considers poverty and suffering as an affliction of evil; hence it is the duty of every individual to fight this evil.
I have thought about sharing the magnanimity of a simple concept like Art of Giving with the people to spread peace and happiness in the society since 2013. I join the league of people like Ben Carson when he advocates, “Happiness does not result from what we get, but from what we give”. Let the “Art of Giving” as a value be inculcated in every heart because “We make living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”.
Art of Giving started as a thought, but along the way, people joined the cause. For the last nine years, Art of Giving community, consisting of our well wishers and those inspired by it, celebrate 17 May as International Day of Art of Giving on themes like Society, Spirituality, Humanity and to unite the three through art of giving in 2014, Kompassions: The Garment Bank to donate old recyclable clothes and other material to the needy in 2015, Connecting with the World and Self through practice of gratitude in 2016, Cyclothon to spread a message of healthy living and green future in 2017. Post the year 2017, the family of Art of Giving rose from thousands to millions with the introduction of community contribution for community building. The numbers grew exponentially and so did the volunteers. Since then AOG has been what it was always meant to be: by the public, of the public and for the public. In 2018, Pyaar Bhara Pack was a huge success. Over 20 million meals were distributed. In 2019, Bag of Happiness united people together by gifting happiness kits to the students. Struggling during the pandemic, in 2020 the theme was AOG Fights Corona to acknowledge the COVID warriors and help victims. In 2021, the theme was My Mother My Hero wherein AOG community wrote gratitude letters to mothers, the givers.
While it was in a nascent stage in 2014 and 2015, it gained momentum. With over 20 million followers and 1.5 million members, our family has grown exponentially. Our convenors from over 300 locations in 120 countries across the globe, all states in India and all panchayats and blocks of Odisha work throughout the year for spreading the message of Art of Giving and Volunteerism. Through social media, we have touched around 10 million lives and with a huge follower base that interacts with us virtually, we are in the process of making the world one united by the spirit of giving.
This year, the theme is “Hope, Happiness and Harmony”. We have been going through tough times for the last two years. Yet, we have not lost hope. We have infinite ways to connect and support each other through simple acts of love, compassion, empathy, kindness and gratitude. I am sure that living with hope shall create numerous opportunities to spread the message of peace and happiness in society.
Let’s heal the world and create a sea change by spreading the message of Hope, Happiness and Harmony transcending borders, castes, creed, nationality and become a string of pearls strengthened by the bonds of humanity.
All my achievements are due to the habit of Art of Giving. Sharing everything that I own has become my passion. It is not connected with material wealth.
This year, the theme is “Hope, Happiness and Harmony”. We have been going through tough times for the last two years. Yet, we have not lost hope. We have infinite ways to connect and support each other through simple acts of love, compassion, empathy, kindness and gratitude.