Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Generosity in the 21st Century

It has been almost 6 months since posting some new thoughts here.  The reason is that I have been very absorbed with Bridges to America, my cute, little non-profit.  I have posted MANY thoughts on that blog which I hope you will read, including a report on the rescue mission I went on in March to villages in Ghana, Africa.

I have to tell you that I LOVE this work!  The problems are deep and the challenges tall but the rewards are significant.  I can say honestly that the feeling of digging in and working to try and tackle serious problems in the world experienced by people who really can't help themselves is compelling.  For me non-profit work is not some "feel good" or "pat myself on the back" type effort.  I have just connected with the problem solver in me and he is happily quite busy trying to solve problems.

All of this leads me to the "G" in BRIDGES; Generosity.

Generosity used to mean to me writing a check to charity or dropping some coins in the cup of homeless person or the Salvation Army's red bucket at Christmas time.  But I have learned that generosity in the 21st century really means the following:

1.  Engage

No dollar amount of a donation means more than spending time and the mental and emotional energy needed to understand someone's situation and help them.  While I cannot run Bridges To America without funding, often the most meaningful contributions people can make is to simply understand and then share our story.

2.  Connect

After engaging, we must somehow connect personally to the cause and the people helped by it.  We are all so busy in this modern day posting, tweeting, messaging, etc. that we can go days, weeks, or even months(?) without having a meaningful face-to-face and heart-to-heart conversation with someone.  Connecting personally to another can be the greatest act of generosity there is.

Bridges To America all started because I saw a very good man separated from his family and in real pain.  This only happened because I asked him about his family and he opened up to me about their separation.  At the time. the only thing I could think of was how much pain I would be in if I was separated from my family for two years.  After that, I HAD to act.

3.  Commit

It is an enormous waste of opportunity to find yourselves experiencing #1 and #2 above and then stopping. 

Do something!  It doesn't have to be big it just has to be meaningful.  If it means something to you then you will hardly notice the time and energy it takes to commit and pick up the ball and run with it for the rest of your life.

So, yes keep writing checks because money makes the charitable world go 'round but I would suggest that when you make the effort to find ways to serve, to contribute to others the returns on that investment are compounded because both the person helped and the person helping are elevated.