Wednesday, February 24, 2016

What do you give?

The other day I watched a piece on 60 Minutes with a few of our nation’s prominent billionaires coming together for a meeting of minds on philanthropy. It was interesting enough to see a group of the richest individuals in the world conferring about the best ways to give back to the world. I couldn’t help but think philanthropy doesn’t ever reach far enough. 

Philanthropy from the very wealthiest individuals is usually a manifestation of first-world guilt. Not to come off cynical, but a billionaire is only available to give money and awareness from the use of their name. They can provide the infrastructure to provide change, but they can’t directly touch lives that the change provides for. But what stops those of us who don’t have billions of dollars in wealth to pledge? Hear me out, I promise this isn’t some heavy liberal blubbering about giving back.

What do you do when you see a woman walking down the street with multiple children? I’ll be honest, I usually say something along the lines of “she should’ve fucked a nigga with a car.” As callous as it sounds, I know I limit my empathy for others in certain situations. But what if I stopped and offered her that ride? I know what some of you are thinking, either I just opened myself up to getting robbed or enabled her to continue down an impoverished path. But what if that gesture was one of many that made her realise her and her children are valued members of society?

Now, I get that that example doesn't exactly match up with our mental picture of global philanthropy because we don't look at our own country as having people in need. I invite you to look at another scenario in own own country I saw firsthand. Homelessness. I'm not one of the richer people on this planet by a long shot, but homelessness got to me in a way where I had to help. Through some begging and personal spending (please don't read that as bragging) I was able to help expand local homeless shelters in my area. But even though more people had a place to lay their head, they continued to be homeless. I realised pretty quickly we had only put a bandaid on a open wound. These homeless needed help to rehabilitate their lives. They needed rehab, psychiatric attention, ways to get back to work. But most of all they just needed someone to listen to them. The more I heard their stories, the more I realised they needed someone to listen and care so they could believe themselves valuable to the community.

So to bring it all home, what can you do to help make life simpler for someone? It depends on where you are in life. No matter what, it starts with opening yourself up to those society has otherwise given up on. It's not really about doing anything specific but connecting with people no matter how much more or less fortunate they are. So what are you going to give?

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