The Gift


Parker, Ian




British writer Ian Parker lives in New York and writes for the New Yorker. "The Gift" is the true story of Zell Kravinsky, a real-estate mogul and philanthropist who liquidated his real-estate fortune of forty-five million dollars "gift by gift, keeping the emphasis on public health." After donating most of his material assets to charity, Kravinsky, against the wishes of his family, donated a kidney to a woman he did not know. By the end of the article, he seems ready, too, to give away the other one. Parker's article raises a series of ethical questions about the limits of giving and responsibility.

Full Text*

*CCR cannot guarantee the accuracy or continued availability of this online text. Please notify us if you encounter any problems.


The New Yorker. August 2, 2004, p. 54




Giving and ReceivingMoney and WealthPoverty and NeedServing and Volunteering

Big Questions

How much should I give? What, if anything, might limit my giving?What makes a good gift?When I give, what do I expect in return? What do I receive?What do those with more owe to those with less?How do we know what someone needs?How should we respond to people and communities in need?Is my service changing the world or only myself? Is that enough?Is my service effective? How do I know?Should we keep a distance from the people we serve?

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. In the beginning of the piece, Kravinsky lies to his wife and gets angry with his friend in order to serve a stranger. Is he ethical or unethical in his approach to doing good?
  2. What are Kravinsky's motives for such extensive philanthropic and service work?
  3. How does Kravinsky's service affect the people around him?
  4. What are our limitations in giving?
  5. How much should we be responsible for in the world as individuals?
  6. How much do we need to care for ourselves while serving others?
Back to Resources