Recently I happened to see a documentary about a millionaire businessman who decided to live for a month as a poor person in the most impoverished area of Los Angeles. His intent was to find the agencies that truly helped people. When the month was over, he surprised those few agencies with sizable financial gifts. There was one moment that hit home for me. One homeless person struggling to get his life back said to the millionaire when his agency received a gift, “Man, you believe in us.” It made me think about how important it is to have people who believe in us, and how easy it is to lose belief in others and even ourselves.

Take a moment to remember the people who believe in you. Whether alive now or not, you would not be where you are without them. But many don’t have those people in their lives, or they have made mistakes that cause people to stop believing in them, and they forget how to believe in themselves. To improve their lives, people need to know that others value them. The human spirit requires this basic form of nurture. We might think of ourselves as “self-made” men or women because we focus on how much effort and smarts it took to us get to our level of success, whatever that may be. But in reality, we’ve all had a lot of help – family, teachers, mentors and friends who believed in us.

Believing means that we never lose hope. It means that we can see what isn’t obvious; we can see the good and the potential in people who are struggling. And, we can help them to see that in themselves. This perspective is at the heart of all charitable work, regardless of the form of charity. Giving a helping hand is an expression of trust in the person to eventually find his or her way back to a good life despite the odds. If we in non-profit work lose faith in those we serve, we’ve lost something precious, the very core of hope. Believing in people is the most important work of charity, and the best way to say thank you for those who have believed in you.