It is innately human to want to help others. We have, within us, a desire to be good and do good, to serve and bless others. As a parent, I think it's imperative to teach our children how to serve and, more specifically, how to love service.
Contrary to the popular culture, people don't feel better about themselves by focusing on themselves. Rather, “getting outside of ourselves” in service is the key to real self-esteem.
Rather than thinking about ourselves — being self-centered — being other-centered actually brings relief from constant comparison, serves a real need, teaches important lessons, and improves lives. And self-confidence, self-assuredness, and a feeling of self-worth are real by-products of the selfless actions.
Unfortunately, our culture's answer to this inner desire to improve others' lives is, far too often, to legislate that someone else (like “greedy” “rich” people) be forced to give their hard-earned money to the causes we think should are important. It's a convenient way to assuage our own guilt without any personal sacrifice. But it's also a hollow offering.
I believe it is central to giving that it is (a) voluntary and (b) used to support causes the resource owner deems worthy. Rather than being coercive, this method bring real passion to issues. It requires charities to be accountable. Perhaps most important, it allows each of us the freedom to use our own gifts and talents to most effectively lift others.