“Philanthropy is not about money, it’s about feeling the pain of others and caring enough about their needs to help.”—Timothy Pina
In a world that is quickly turning into a selfish and often a needy society, it is no wonder that the idea of being a philanthropist is not the main topic of conversation among individuals and groups. Although it is less common today, as it may have been in years or centuries prior, it is not an idea that has completely died. This is because examples of philanthropist can be found all around through acts of kindness, fundraisers and genuine kindness exhibited by individuals towards others.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “philanthropy” is a noun, which is defined as: “goodwill to fellow members of the human race especially: active effort to promote human welfare.” Other definitions include, “an act or gift done or made for humanitarian purposes” and “an organization distributing or supported by funds set aside for humanitarian purposes.” Furthermore, the Oxford Dictionary defines it has “the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes”.
Examples of Philanthropist
“Never respect men merely for their riches, but rather for their philanthropy; we do not value the sun for its height, but for its use.” –Gamaliel Bailey
For most of us, we are presented with opportunities to donate to various different charities, that are intended to help individuals and groups with a specific goal in mind such as special needs outdoor activities, children with cancer fun runs, multiple sclerosis, burn camps for children and veteran’s fun runs to name a few. In fact, if you look around, there are plenty of philanthropist who quietly work behind the scenes giving freely of themselves for the betterment of humankind. More often than not, these people silently, give of themselves; not wanting a lot of fanfare or recognition. Others have dedicated their life to being a philanthropist like Mother Teresa, and actively work towards bettering human welfare around the globe.
According to an article published on forbes.com the list of the top fifty of the most generous people in America, you’ll find famous names such as Warren Buffett, Bill & Melinda Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Michael & Susan Dell and many others.
Most famous people—actors/actresses, billionaires, athletes, and so forth have charitable organizations they endorse and support, and are thereby considered to be philanthropist. Others have started their own charitable organization that supports something that they are passionate about.; including St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, animal rescue and shelters, under privileged children and cystic fibrosis, just to name a few. The biggest thing to remember, is that you don’t have to be rich or famous in order to be a philanthropist, every single person has the innate ability to be a philanthropist in their own way.
While all of these different individuals and couples are doing great things and defiantly fit the definition of being a philanthropist, they are well known for more than their charitable contributions. Once again, no where in any definition of “philanthropy” does it state that part of the requirements to be considered a philanthropist do you have to be famous or a billionaire.
Some of the most famous philanthropist around the world, made a huge difference without having copious amount of money at their disposal. These people include Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and others all had a desire to make the world around them a better place, and made that their life mission. As a result, people continue to emulate them and the example and legacy they left behind.
Mother Teresa born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu dedicated her life to caring for the less fortunate and the destitute around her. At the young age of 12, Mother Teresa felt a strong call from God, telling her that she needed to be a missionary and to spread the love of Christ. At the age of 18, she left home and joined the Sister of Loreto, an Irish community of nuns who had missions in India. It was while she was in Calcutta, India that she got a glimpse into the suffering and poverty outside the walls of the convent. What she saw had a profound impact on her, that in 1948 she received permission to leave the convent school and devote her life to working along side the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta. She had no funds to aid in her efforts, she depended on Divine Providence and was able to start an open-air school for children who lived in the slums. Eventually she was joined by voluntary helpers and financial support came forth, which made it possible for her to extend the scope of her work. The work and effort she put forth into being a philanthropist to those in Calcutta has been recognized and acclaimed world-wide. Mother Teresa received numerous awards for her work in providing aid and support to those in need.
Mahatma Gandhi, or better known as “Gandhi”, practiced a nonviolent philosophy that promoted passive resistance. Following World War I, Gandhi was active as the leading figure in India’s struggle to gain independence from Great Britain. Because he believed in nonviolent actions to promote change and bring awareness to bigger issues, such as, excessive land-tax and discrimination against farmers and urban laborers, throughout his life. He undertook numerous hunger strikes both as a means of self-purification and political protest to the injustices that his native people were experiencing. Gandhi was committed to helping India gain economic independence, so much that he advocated for the manufacturing of khaddar, or homespun cloth to replace imported textiles from Britain. Although he was imprisoned for his beliefs, he never stopped fighting for what he felt was right and what would provide India and their citizens a better quality of life.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. was instrumental in helping to advance the civil rights movement in the 1950s in the United States. In addition to his efforts to advance civil rights, he also worked as a co-pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. King, was a member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. With this position, he was eager to organize nonviolent protest and movements to improve the quality of life for his race. Some of the most famous events that Dr. King organized include the bus boycott of 1955 that lasted for 382 days. As a result of the nonviolent, bus boycott, the Supreme Court of the United States declared the laws unconstitutional that required segregation on the buses; allowing for whites and coloreds to ride the same bus as equals. In 1963, Dr. King lead a peaceful march with 250,000 people, on Washington, D.C., where he delivered his famous “I have a Dream” speech. He was arrested upwards of twenty times between 1957 and 1968, and was assaulted at least four different times. Nevertheless, he did not let these incidents and incarceration stop him for promoting his belief and conviction of equal rights. As a result of his efforts, he was able to motivate both whites and coloreds to work together to advance the civil rights movements. He had the ability to get others to see both races as equals and not divided. Although, his life was cut short before he could fully see the fruits of his labors, Dr. King had a dramatic impact on the civil rights movements and future generations to come. He left a lasting legacy that has propelled him to be an iconic philanthropist who was willing to die so that others would have a better quality of life for generations to come.
You Too Can Be a Philanthropist
“Charity is just writing checks and not being engaged. Philanthropy, to me, is being engaged, not only with your resources but getting people and yourself really involved and doing things that haven’t been done before.” –Eli Broad
You don’t have to have billions of dollars or gain worldwide recognition to be a philanthropist in your own community. You don’t have to do something crazy, drastic or profound to make a difference. Simple acts, such as donating monetarily to someone in need, to providing acts of service to those around you so they know you care. Everyone can be a philanthropist in their own way. Some of the most popular ways that people are able to be a philanthropist is by donating to a family who has a child fighting cancer, helping an elderly neighbor with their yard work or household chores, baking cookies to take to a friend, offering to bring in dinner to a family with a new baby, or providing child care to a family in need. Even small and simple things fit the definition of philanthropy.
Unfortunately, these stories don’t tend to make news headlines, but they happen all the time. Think about the times in your own life when you were the recipient of someone else’s generosity. Perhaps you were a young girl scout out selling delectable girl scout cookies trying to raise money for your troop, or perhaps you were trying to raise money for your school sports team and received donations from friends and community members.
Elizabeth Laird “Hug Lady”
Other examples of everyday philanthropist include Elizabeth Laird, who is better known as the “Hug Lady”. When the United States went to war against Iraq in 2003 in the fight against terrorism, countless troops deployed from Fort Hood, Texas. When the troops started to deploy, Laird was there to send them off with a hug and words of faith and encouragement. When troops started to return home, Laird was once again there to greet them with another hug welcoming them back home. Over the years, she has given out hundreds of thousands of hugs to troops coming and going from Fort Hood. It is estimated that over the years Laird handed out over 500,000 hugs before she passed away at the age of 83 in 2015. This simple act of kindness took little effort on Laird’s part but quickly showed her support and love for the troops. Laird’s example shows that no matter how old or young a person is, they can make a difference, they too can be a philanthropist in their own way. Laird was able to see how much her simple act of love and kindness was appreciated, when thousands of troops came to visit her in her hospital room when she was battling cancer, leaving her with thousands of hugs of their own.
Many people have not had the privilege of meeting and getting to know Dorothea Watkins, better known as Dottee and her work as a philanthropist. Dottee is a selfless woman who lives in the United States by a Mexico border town. She saw a need in her community and that of the bordering Mexico town. As a result, she wanted to do what she could to make a difference and improve the quality of life for those who were living in poverty in Mexico. Among the needs she worked to alleviate, she learned that young children who were deaf had no way to communicate with their families and vice versa. Dottee reached out to those who could help and was put into contact with a group from El Paso, Texas. The group made the journey to Dottee’s border town and were able to teach Mexican Sign Language (MSL) to young children and their families, along with other interpreters; as a result, MSL is now taught in schools, enabling the hearing impaired to be able to communicate their needs. As Dottee continued to learn of the needs in her own community, she eventually founded a non-profit organization that provides free healthcare to those in need, along with EMT training to locals, to be able to provide emergency medical services to those in need. Along with meeting healthcare needs, Dottee’s organization works with organizations across the United States that travel to Mexico to build homes and bring necessary medical supplies to the impoverished community. Dottee believes that through empowering the community, the entire community will benefit and have a desire to work together and improve their community on their own.
Chances are, you know someone who enjoys baking and enjoys sharing their yummy treats with others more than they do making them. All growing up, I had a neighbor who made the most divine homemade bread and cinnamon rolls. She enjoyed making them so much that she would always make a large batch, more than her family could consume. As a result, living next door to her, she would send over a couple loafs of bread or a dozen cinnamon rolls for our family to enjoy as well. It was a small gesture on her part that made a positive impact on our family. She took the time to share her talents with us, not expecting anything in return. This was a great example of someone practicing philanthropy in my own life, that instilled in me at an early age a desire to do kind deeds to others for no reason other than to be nice.
Paying it Forward
A common act of kindness that I have heard of frequently is where people pay for another person’s fast food order or groceries randomly, with the hope that the person whose life they blessed, would pay it forward and pay for someone else’s. There are countless videos on YouTube that illustrate people doing this very thing, and how it made them feel afterwards. In some instances, they performed this act completely anonymously, whereas others confronted strangers and learned their story. Honestly, watching videos of others doing this act, makes me want to do it for others when I am in a position to be able to do so. I have been the recipient of this in my own life, and it was the biggest surprise to me and it made me happy that I wanted to return the favor. I am continually looking forward to an opportunity where I can pay for another person’s meal or groceries as a way to pay it forward and spread kindness to others around me.
How to be a Philanthropist in Your Own Life
“Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more.” –Tony Robbins
There are countless different ways in which you can be a philanthropist in your own life and make a difference in your community. Some of the easiest, most common ways to become a philanthropist include donating to charities and other good causes, baking cookies and taking them to a neighbor in need, spreading joy through hugs and companionship, befriending someone who needs a friend, or volunteering your time at a local food bank or homeless shelter.
With the help of social media, it is easier now than ever before to find people and organizations that need help or volunteers. It is difficult to scroll through a social media feed without finding a post that encourages or ask for people to donate to different causes, fundraisers, charities, etc. This is primarily because as soon as word is out that a disaster, tragedy or accident has occurred, people establish fundraisers as a way for others to donate and help ease the burden of the current situation.
Simple ways in which you can make a difference in someone else’s life is to actively look for opportunities to help those in your own community. The United States Postal Service does a food drive, where all you have to do is place food out by your mailbox to be collected by mail carriers, this is something that occurs in all of our communities and is easy for all of us to participate in without a lot of effort or fanfare. Most food pantries will accept food and monetary donations at their facilities where you can drop off items you wish to donate.
If you are in a position where you can help someone, make the effort to do so. Even if it is only a couple of dollars that you can spare to help make someone’s situation better, do it. But remember it does not have to include money it can include giving of your time to help someone even if it is just listening to them. I firmly believe in what you do unto others will come back to bless you when you need help in your own life.
A common misconception that many people have about being a philanthropist, is they believe that it requires them to have copious amounts of money. This misconception can hinder people from realizing what they do have to offer, thinking that the only way to help is through monetary donations. No matter how big or small, you can make a difference by donating your time to assisting others in need. Most people who are true philanthropist, work tirelessly, with little to no recognition for their efforts, which is exactly how they want it to be. These people give everything they have to ensure that others needs are met and that they leave the world a better place than they found it.
Example of Real-Life Philanthropist
Recently, I was traveling over 1,000 miles with a group to do a humanitarian project. We were a little over halfway to our destination, when we experienced some serious car problems and ended up stranded on the side of the road. We were in a different state, where we didn’t know anyone or any mechanics or tow trucks whom we could call for help. After frantically searching Google, while sitting on the side of the road and making numerous phone calls all to be told they couldn’t help us (it was late on a Friday afternoon), we were starting to get discouraged. When out of the blue, a guy who happened to be driving past had an empty, flatbed trailer, saw our group (mostly girls) standing on the side of the road and decided to stop. This man stopped, and offered to load our car onto his trailer and take us to a mechanic shop that he knew of a couple of miles down the road. In order to help us, in our time of need, it required that he miss a scheduled appointment to pick up a piece of equipment that he had rented and other plans were delayed. He didn’t care that his plans were disrupted. In fact, he told me that when “you see a group of girls standing on the side of the road, you have to stop and help”. We were forever grateful for this man, who out of the kindness of his heart helped a group of complete strangers who were in desperate need of help. He did not ask for or require that we pay him for his service, he was just happy to help someone in need.
Anyone Can Be a Philanthropist…Including You!
As per the definition of philanthropy, every single person can be a philanthropist by simply having a desire to do good and improve human welfare. Being able to make a difference has never been easier, as there is a plethora of opportunities that provide every single person the ability to give back and pay it forward in their own communities, nationwide or worldwide.
I challenge you to look outside your own personal life, and find ways in which you can give freely of yourself to improve another’s life. Find ways to implement the idea of being a philanthropist into your life and you will benefit from it. Find a good cause that you believe in or that tugs at your heart strings and donate to it, or share it so that others can donate.
In order to be a philanthropist, you don’t have to donate money, there are other things that you can do that will also make a positive impact and promote the betterment of human welfare. Simple things such as volunteering your time, bake cookies, visit the sick or elderly, send a card in the mail just to let someone know that you are thinking about them. Another easy way to help others that doesn’t require money is to help pass out or post flyers for an upcoming event or good cause.
There are ample opportunities and ways in which every single person can be a philanthropist. Don’t let the idea that you have to be a famous person or have millions of dollars stop you from making a difference. When you look for opportunities, you will find them in abundance. If you see someone in need, ask yourself if you are able to fill the need, and do so if you are capable. All of these small things add up to make a big impact that can truly change someone’s life for the better.
Author: Ashley Christensen
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