Honest Philanthropy in a Place You Might Not Expect
By Gabriel Baerwald - October 03, 2017

Of the twenty-five countries I have explored, the most memorable trip I’ve made so far has been to the city of Amritsar. It is the religious center of the Sikhs and border town to Pakistan in India. It is a place of beauty and adventure. Here I had one of the most profound experiences of my life.

Walking the streets of every city in the world, you will come across the homeless. You see poverty and hunger in the eyes of many people you meet. It’s hard to resist the call to altruism when people ask or beg for money to feed and shelter the less fortunate. It is often held as a virtue to care for the impoverished.

Unfortunately, many politicians take it upon themselves whether through genuine virtue or selfish manipulation to push these matters into the governmental system. Don’t have a license to serve food? You can get arrested for feeding the poor. However, your tax money can be used to subsidize soda, junk food, and other unhealthy habits for EBT cardholders.

Fortunately in India charity is not regulated, at least not yet. The profound experience I had at the Sikh temple was watching 100,000 people eat for free through volunteer labor and donations. 450 staff and hundreds of volunteers make this happen every day. Fueled by donations from across the world they prepare meals at the kitchen called “langar” in Punjabi.

There you may get in line to be ushered into a grand hall where you sit down and take a plate of lentils, potatoes, bread and other food. The whole operation runs on a tight schedule so after a few minutes you’re ushered out for the next crowd as cleaners push mopping vacuums across the floor cleaning up any spilled messes.

Outside the volunteers peel potatoes, prepare food, wash dishes, and make bread. The bakery in the Temple turns out 200,000 flat loaves of bread each day to feed its patrons. It is a spectacular sight to behold, the largest wholly voluntary charity in the world. No matter your caste, creed, or religion all people are welcome.

What would happen if people were free to help others without threat? What if myself as an individual chose where my money went rather than bureaucracy? The results can be beautiful, there is always a risk, but life is risky. Only you can choose how to best help your fellow man.


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