Of the four Stoic virtues, Marcus Aurelius said justice was the most important. To him, it was “the source of all the other virtues.” After all, how impressive are courage or discipline if they are only used to serve self-interest? What good is wisdom if not put to use for the whole world?
Over and over and over, the Stoics talk about community, partnership, fellowship, neighborliness, and our relation to a larger whole (if you remember, one of Marcus’s epithets was “cooperative.”) It’s that belief—the mutual interdependence among everything in the universe, that we are all one—that inspired our sympatheia coin. It’s also what inspired us back in December to ask you all to contribute to our effort through GiveDirectly to raise money for families in poverty. Thanks to the generosity of the Daily Stoic and Daily Dad communities, we raised $32,316 for families living in the Giterama village in Rwanda. GiveDirectly’s field team provided each family with an $850 cash transfer—the equivalent of a YEAR’S worth of income for people used to surviving on less than $2 per day.
The GiveDirectly Field team shot this video featuring Gitarama residents describing the direct impact our donations have had on their lives and community.
“My children used to go to school with no shoes,” one of the residents says. “They only cost $1, but we couldn’t afford them. When I now meet someone on the streets, they tell me how their lives have completely changed. It is amazing.”
One resident “didn’t even have a safe place to stand when it rained,” so with the money, they bought materials to repair their home. Another woman explained that with the money we donated, she bought a sewing machine and tailoring lessons. For the first time, her children got new clothes and shoes.
There is a phenomenon called the “helper’s high”—it has been found that when you give to others, your brain’s pleasure and reward centers light up, as if you were the recipient of the good deed—not the giver. It is hard to watch the video without feeling that helper’s high—something we Stoics live for, as Seneca said. “We Stoics,” he said, “take pleasure in bestowing benefits, even though they cost us labor, provided that they lighten the labors of others.” Marcus said that we don’t need to ask for the third thing in life–being thanked or recognized for good deeds, because doing them was pleasure enough.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to the GiveDirectly fundraiser! Marcus said the fruit of this life were those acts, the kind we do for the common good: being unselfish, caring for your fellow humans, embracing your good fortune only as a means to lighten the difficulties for those less fortunate. Marcus would be proud.
To see more details on our fundraising results, or to donate to families in need, visit givedirectly.org/stoic.