In late December our mailboxes are filled with holiday greetings and solicitation letters. Often these letters go in a pile to review before December 31. Every letter is compelling and shares stories of worthy causes and the impact that philanthropic support makes. But what is the true meaning of one’s generosity?

Sometimes it is valuable to look back to better understand the meaning of words and phrases we commonly use today The word “charity” is derived from late Latin, “caritas,” meaning “generous love.” In Judaism, the word most commonly associated with “charity” is “tzedekah,” which translates to “justice or righteousness.” When you put the Latin and Jewish meanings together— “generous love, justice, righteousness”—one can understand the true meaning of philanthropy: giving from the heart and seeking justice for all in order to make our world better.

It’s not easy to decide where to give and how much to give. I enjoyed reading Michelle Singletary’s column in the Personal Finance section of this Sunday’s Boston Globe. Take a moment to read the article and think about Singletary’s suggestions for how to choose the causes that are most meaningful to you. For the most sophisticated philanthropists to those who are just starting to think about giving, this article highlights how to give from your heart and your head.

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