Much has been written on the various degrees of charity. It is a worldwide conclusion that we should not hand the needy person a fish. Instead we should teach him how to fish so he can find and catch his food for the rest of his life.
It is also very important that the philanthropist must keep a low profile and not show off. Seeking honor and credit for a generous act is a definite no-no. One giving charity and still trying to obtain obvious credit must be sure of two things.
They must know to whom they are boasting and they must make sure that their efforts to gain distinction are not too transparent. Being taciturn like Gary Cooper is preferred, but if one must brag openly, caution is compulsory. It is accomplished only by very clever people who have the acting skills of Laurence Olivier.
In 1994 my dental school class celebrated its 35th year anniversary at a hired mansion on 86th Street just off Fifth Avenue. It was an elegant affair with music, fine food and more than abundant drink. The alumni in their 35th year since graduation were successful professional men who had learned through experience the ways of the world. In other words they were a hard-nosed, grizzled, savvy group.
At one point in the evening the microphone was given to each alumnus for a few words. Most talked about their children and their wives. Understatement was the key, peppered by a bit of cute self-deprecation.
And then it happened! A bomb was dropped!
One classmate swaggered up to the microphone in a sanctimonious manner. "I've listened to you guys long enough. Now let me tell you what I have been doing. I am teaching at our alma mater. I am doing it because I want to give back to the old school."
His self-serving manner struck a raw nerve in the audience. No prior speaker had mentioned their altruistic deeds or generosity. This guy was way out of line.
The room erupted into a loud, ugly, raucous chorus of boos and "Get off the stage, you jerk!"
It proved best for his physical safety to retreat from center stage and relinquish the microphone. Pandemonium reigned among these middle-aged professional men who felt they were being patronized. Expletives filled the air.
Who was this phony pretender to elaborate his supposed charitable acts and tell his classmates of his glorious deeds? No one else had mentioned their acts of giving. Humility and modesty are still treasured commodities! Every one of the sitting audience had done dentistry for the poor and underprivileged at no cost or reduced cost. They did not need to be present while one of their own grandstanded his questionable accomplishments.