Today on Twitter I spent some time talking about the power and importance of “charity,” and of course it wasn’t long before I received a solicitation from someone else on Twitter asking me to donate to their favorite charity (smile). All good, and I don’t blame them at all for trying, but I literally gave at the office, as the founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE. HOPE has serves more than 1.5 million individuals from low-wealth and under-served communities to date, over its 19 year history, but there is so much more yet to be done.

This did though get me thinking about how many people misunderstand what giving is all about, and how it is defined in one’s life.

Money is not giving, it is a tool for giving, no different than the Internet is not entertainment or news or empowerment, but simply a tool for these things. The Internet is in many ways simply the new television, radio or newspaper. It is the new how, but not the new what.

The what is your character and your intent, and at its core — you. If you have a giving spirit, you will always find a way to give, help and support others, whether you have money or not.

How Everyone Can Help

There are two basic ways that each and everyone on the planet can help; they can invest and give their money or their time. Money is the most obvious, and if you have it, maybe even the easiest. In this way, unless it is combined with a genuine intent and purposefulness, it can also be the laziest — as it allows many to pay and bypass (the pain).

But each and every person on the planet has another power — and that is their time. You can invest your money, or you can invest your time — but either and both are investments, and a gift to those you endow with their benefit. Investing either, or both, also speaks to your priorities.

If you have money, look at your priorities and then look at where you invest your financial resources.

If you say you love your children, then there should be a checkbook register entry or payment for school fees, tutoring courses.

If you say you love your family, then there should be entries or payments for a mortgage or in Europe and parts of Africa a bond payment, or a rent payment, for their shelter and care. They should likewise be investments in food, health and wellness. But you should also invest your time — giving your kids and those you say you love, your time.

I am always tickled by those who say they really want to eradicate poverty, as long as it’s not in their backyard, it doesn’t inconvenience them, doesn’t cost them much money or raise their taxes, nor change their way or life. Otherwise, they would really love to help. And this is the ultimate laziness — an unwillingness to give or invest either time or money.

Everyone can give their time, which in the end may in fact be their richest and most valuable contribution of all.

If you say you love community, then look at where you are investing your time in your own community on a regular basis. What are you doing, and where are you showing up?

If you say you love our children and care desperately about their future success — how often are you showing up in local classrooms, Boys & Girls Clubs, Operation HOPE’s Banking on Our Future classrooms, Junior Achievement and National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship classrooms and such? Or my friend Susan Taylor’s National Cares Mentoring Movement, or right here in Atlanta, with 100 Black Men of Atlanta, or my personal hero’s Andrew Young YMCA? What are you doing, right where you sit, and maybe even through those you love? What are you giving back, as even you would not be where you are today, without someone believing in you — investing a little time and energy, in you.

Someone whom I care about dearly is also one of my greatest role models, as I see them volunteering on a regular basis for our under-served children (meaning often the most at risk), without anyone asking or encouraging, weekly. This says more about their character and priorities in life than almost anything else. It makes me admire, respect and love them even more. The more you give, the more you get.

It is true that giving is ultimately getting. That whatever goes around comes around. And that those who give, actually in the end feel as though they received the most. This is the 5th Law of Love Leadership; giving is getting.

To quote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “everyone can lead, because everyone can serve.”

Okay, let’s go…

John Hope Bryant is a thought leader, the founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, Inc., author of Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business book LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), and a Member of the U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability.

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