Get inspired by an audio version of this blog!
I’ve shared before 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 dry cleaners. Checking off these items certainly gave me a nice sense of satisfaction!
During this day, I found myself particularly busy. I rushed into the dry cleaners. 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 dry cleaners 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 dry cleaners 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 dry cleaners, I had missed a valuable opportunity. What I needed to do was connect with my dry cleaners, 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 dry cleaners, and pretty much anywhere we want. Where does it exist for you?