CULTURE OF GIVING
In the Economy of Communion, the producers – entrepreneurs, workers, and their business associates - are inspired by principles rooted in a culture different from what prevails in today's practice and theory of economics. We can define this as the "culture of giving" which really is the antithesis of a "culture of having."
Giving economic assistance can express a self-giving rooted in our very being. In other words, it can reveal an anthropological view that is neither individualistic nor collective but rather is communion. A culture of giving is not some form of philanthropy or welfare - these are individualistic virtues.
In a deeper sense, the very essence of a person is to be in "communion." Consequently however, not every act of giving creates a culture of giving. There is a giving that is self-serving, for example, or those with motivations of later on collecting on the basis of debt of gratitude.
And then there is the "giving" that Christians find in the Gospel. It is when the giver opens up to another and remains respectful of his or her dignity. It generates an experience of the words in the gospel "give and it will be given to you" even for the managers or owners of a business. These words from the Gospel might manifest themselves to the businessperson in the form of a financial windfall, or in the unexpected discovery of an innovative technical solution, or as an idea for an innovative product.
When the Focolare Movement began in 1943 in Trent Italy, the rediscovery of the Gospel's new commandment, "love one another as I have loved you" (John 13: 34) inspired a communion of spiritual and material goods. Since then, the communion of goods has become standard practice in following the example of the first Christian Communities.
This is a fact of enormous importance and rich in consequence. The communion of hearts and goods, a jewel of early Christian communities that echoed the teachings of Jesus, was the lifeblood of the Church for a long time. Although it has since lost its novelty, it has been preserved in monasteries, in convents and in some lay communities.
Chiara Lubich and her first companions were aware of its influence from the inception. Chiara said: "We were trying to live the communion of goods to the maximum extent possible to resolve the social problems of Trent. I thought ‘there are two or three areas where the poor live... let's go there! We will take what we have and share it with them...' Our reasoning was very simple: We have more - they have less. We will raise their living standard to achieve some level of equality.
“And it is from those beginnings that an ‘amazing’ experience of the Gospel began: ‘Give and it shall be given to you.’ In the midst of a full-blown war, food rations, clothing, and medicine arrived in uncommon abundance.
“We became convinced that putting the Gospel into practice holds the answer, in a nutshell, to every problem for individuals and society.”
The EoC is based on the conviction that, without a new culture, a new economy cannot be created. Economic behaviors are always the result of a more general lifestyle, a global vision. That is why, since Chiara Lubich's first inspiration, a part of the business profit is earmarked for the creation of a "culture of giving," mainly through the educational facilities of the Focolare Movement (example: experimental cities, New City press).
In these facilities more or less, economically poor people learn and experience a culture of reciprocity, essential to making communion their lifestyle.
Help to the Poorer
The first goal of the EoC is fighting misery (we prefer not to call it "poverty") as a way to build a more just and brotherly world. The EoC proposes to give a helping hand to people who are in economic distress or in any form of poverty (concerning education, civil rights, etc.), based on the subsidiarity principle and, most of all, on reciprocity. The "poor" is first offered a new relationship before material aid steps in. The first care is the relationship itself.
The EoC is not meant to be a project of assistance, but rather, a project where the community solves its own problems, "subsidized," helped by the profits of the companies. For the outlining and implementation of the aid projects the EoC collaborates with AMU , an NGO which has been working in the field of development for more than 20 years.
The EoC is not an emergency project nor a fund raising one. It aims at the development and growth of the company, in a way that it may continue to create wealth, goods and services, and jobs.
The EoC is not contrary to any form of company (from solo proprietorships to corporations), but it reminds them of their vocation as collaborator of human development and common wealth.