Redefining Philanthropy - Two Stories
By definition: philanthropy (Merriam-Webster)
noun phi·lan·thro·py \fə-ˈlan(t)-thrə-pē\
: the practice of giving money and time to help make life better for other people
An acquaintance of mine threw a party which cost $10,000.00 to throw. There was plenty of shrimp for the five-hundred or so wealthy guests. Making money for herself was not the goal. For her there was no financial return.
Usual fund raising fashion would dictate; artists are invited to donate their work, wealthy folks are invited to a party and auction to bid on the donated items. In contrast, this hostess invited the artists to come to her gallery and display their creations. The wealthy were invited to peruse the gallery and purchase what they wanted. The only cost to the artists was a requirement to donate 15% of their earnings from sales to the charity chosen for the night.
In an artists world it’s tough to make a living. Fundraisers usually require creative and talented people to donate their work, therefore giving away more of themselves for free. So, the starving artist gets to starve more. In contrast, this event gave artists the opportunity to sell their work and be philanthropists for a change. The wealthy guests were confused. Not only by the fact that they couldn’t bid for items but the concept that the woman who paid for the evening did it at her own expense was nearly impossible to comprehend. People just don’t do it that way.
Phone calls and emails are still coming in. Guests want to know what was in it for the hostess; It was an event which valued the artist and the artwork. It also afforded guests the opportunity to make a purchase which ultimately benefitted the charity. $50,000.00 was raised. How refreshing!
Someone once asked if I consider myself a philanthropist.
My initial response was, “No. I don’t have enough money.” Then it occurred to me, philanthropy is really not all about the money. More so, it is about giving of what you have, no matter the amount.
As in Luke, Chapter 21:1-4. The amount of her gift was relative to what she had to give and truly a sacrifice.
The Widow’s Gift
21 And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. 2 And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. 3 And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; 4 for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.” (NASB)
As I reflect, I wonder. How many of us are giving but don’t count it as such?
I’m going to tell you a story I never thought I would share publicly. Until now, it’s been my little secret. I’m only publishing it because I think we all do more than other people know. We don’t get big thank you notes, plaques on a wall or tax receipts at the end of the year. Still, it is all worth doing.
Philanthropy In A Sandwich Shop
There is a young lady I have come to know. She works at a sandwich shop here in town. I first encountered her a few years ago. I noticed she seemed sad and struck up a cheerful conversation. Over time and many visits I learned she’d had a pretty rough go of it. I didn’t ask for details but it was obvious she had survived some pretty hard times. After seeing her there for well over a year, she shared one day how excited she was when she found out her driver’s license could be re-instated. I got the impression she had been without it for at least a couple of years. She said it would take her a few months to raise the money she needed for the Department of Motor Vehicles fees and an official copy of her birth certificate. I felt inspired to do a little something to help her out. So, from that moment on, every time I went in, I paid for my sandwich and gave her five additional dollars, sometimes a little more, toward her goal. Once she was able to get her license… she set out to buy a car. That took a while too. She wasn’t looking for anything fancy, just something to get her to work and home again. She probably paid a few hundred bucks for the car. Frankly, as it sits in the parking lot, it looks a little like it’s been abandoned. I saw her the other day and asked her how the car was running. She said, “Real Good.”She also said it took her a while to learn how to drive it. She said, “Like, the handle for the windshield wipers is broken off but I figured out if I put my finger in the hole and push real hard, I can turn them on.” She smiled and laughed with pride. I smiled back. “Good for you, I said, sounds like a great solution.” If I could afford to buy her a car I would. Instead, my small sacrifice of giving continues and is now going toward gas money.
Does that one little thing I do make me a philanthropist? I think so. So too, does the amount of time I spend thinking of that young woman and praying for her. She has no idea.
So we give as we can give. God knows who needs what and when. He also knows what we are all capable of giving and doing. I pray I always do my best. I seek to serve. I pray for discernment in giving while trusting that God will provide, for me too.
Philanthropy is just a word. We have the power to give it our own definition.
Thank you for reading this. Blessings on your journey.