The Pamela Positive: Philanthropy at the Drycleaners

Last week, I shared about philanthropy as “the love of people,” as a daily practice.

One day I had a pivotal experience that helped me be a better ‘daily philanthropist.’  Each day, I make a ‘to do’ list. The list might range from contacting a corporate client, to running an errand at the drycleaners. Checking off these items certainly gave me a nice sense of satisfaction!

During this day, I found myself particularly busy. I rushed into the drycleaners. I swooped in to pick up my clothes and left a bundle of clothes on the counter.  “There!” I told myself triumphantly.  “I fit in the drycleaners before a meeting. I have gotten one more item off my list!”  Accomplishment, I thought; and yet I didn’t feel it.

What I realized is that the drycleaners wasn’t an errand.

No, it was not a ‘to-do.’

It was an opportunity to love.

Life is not about lists.  We aren’t programmed to just get things done. Instead, each activity, each to-do, each task, is actually an experience of loving.  This is especially true because each experience usually means interacting with someone else. And when we do this in a calm, present, joyful way, that’s living.   And it’s also the true spirit of philanthropy. Loving and being present with others, with mankind.

As one great thinker wrote, a person “…is a marvel, a miracle in the universe….With selfless love, he inscribes on the heart of humanity and transcribes on the page of reality the living, palpable presence – the might and majesty! – of all goodness. He lives for all mankind.”*

Rushing in and out of the drycleaners, I had missed a valuable opportunity. What I needed to do was connect with my drycleaners, know them by name, greet them warmly, and sincerely ask how they are doing. Now I know how Hao is doing, and we have a great relationship of warmth and kindness.  I look forward to our visits.

Writing a check is only one type of philanthropy. I’ve found that it exists at the drycleaners, and pretty much anywhere we want.  Where does it exist for you?

*Mary Baker Eddy

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