I must admit I am somewhat addicted to being useful. Some of us gain our identity from our title, or what we own, or our ethnic or religious origins; but some of us – like me, identify with being able to constructively influence the present, and thereby the future. It is still enlightened self-interest I guess, but when it reaches beyond the bounds of what affects us, it brings power to others. I was fortunate to be born into a loving middle-class home. So, I believe people who have been nurtured and taught to share, possess all of the tools needed to be philanthropic. But, frequently people see a middle-class income as incompatible with real giving; or the ability to make a difference. Think of this, – if 1,000 people each gave one dollar a week for a year, at the end of the year, no one has spent more than $52 but there is now $52,000 to be spent for good! If those same thousand people chose to give these gifts when they would be multiplied by being matched…like the program at BurgerFi restaurant on Windward, where Ron Altman shares the work of the charities suggested by his customers on a big screen every month. Then he then matches their gifts to those charities to double them. When using these great programs, $52,000 becomes $104,000. I would call that influential! When we join forces, even huge problems can be humbled. What shapes your personal perception of what possible? What biases make you shake your head instead of joining in to make the change want to see? We all have something to leverage on behalf of others – resources like time, money, wisdom, construction skills, even the ability to really listen. If you can give a dollar or an hour a week, you can join your neighbors in quietly changing the world. Civic commitment doesn’t mean having to run for public office, it means deliberately working towards betterment where you see lack. Complaining serves to clarify what needs to be done but only a motivated, constructive, civil society can choose and promote general prosperity instead. Social isolation is what fragments our communities. Right now it is a natural consequence of disconnection – the automated ways we now communicate, shop, learn, and socialize. How do you interpret your own value as a human being? And how do you value and respect others? In the recent Matt Damon movie, Downsizing, Matt starts out as a marginally successful, nice person trying to capture enough trappings of wealth to satisfy his self-absorbed wife and feel truly upper class. But, in the end, he learns that it is only in his service to others that he really feels his worth; and he becomes rich without any proof at all. Sadly, most viewers missed the point. 70% of adult players of the avatar game, The Sims spend more than 10 hours a day online in this artificial world, connecting to other pretend people. It is a choice they make because they know what to expect there. It feels safe. Suicide rates are up, overdoses are now rampant; maybe caring that this is true is a start. It doesn’t matter what it is you have passion for; there are other people who agree with you. Dog rescue, disabled children, literacy, sobriety, mental health, childhood cancer, early education, safe driving, water conservation, family court, veterans, low-income housing – there is a place for you to be welcomed to do that work you want to see done.
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