The Compulsive Philanthropist

Zell Kravinsky explains why he would have kept on giving, even after giving away $40 million to charity and donating his kidney to a stranger.

By PT Staff, published on January 1, 2005 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

Real estate investor Zell Kravinsky gave more than $40 million to charity—and then donated one of his kidneys to a stranger. He would have given away more organs and the rest of his fortune, had his family not stopped him. Here are his thoughts on joy:

[Giving my kidney away] did give me joy. I anticipated that it would, and it was not a letdown. That joy still comes back from time to time. It was unselfish, and that can't be taken away by subsequent events. It gives me a security. In theory, I can't get too depressed because I did this one good thing.

My claim is that my aim in life is not happiness but goodness. I can't conceive of any purpose in life, if not moral advancement.

When I see my daughter in a dance recital, for example, that's fantastic—that is a joy. So I don't think life is joyless, but I don't think people are happy.

If you could wake up completely concerned with others' well-being, if you were relieved of the burden of thinking of yourself—that would be happiness.

I would rather my kids be good than happy. For me, the worst parental anxiety is that I would have a child who would hurt others. Nothing they could do would diminish my love for them, but if one of them had no conscience it would be hard to be happy. And it would remind me of my own flaws. But they are sweet kids.

There's no happiness in greed. Getting the thing that you desire never brings happiness.