My first experience of philanthropy was at North Country School in 7th grade. The co-founders, Walter and Leo Clark, taught us to care for our environment by turning out lights when we left our rooms, turning off water while brushing our teeth, and recycling food through composting and feeding scraps to animals. We also saved some of the leftover food to put in our Wednesday midday soup. Instead of a more robust meal like meat and potatoes, we merely had soup and bread.
“Starvation lunch,” as we called it, taught us two things. First, it helped us feel what it was like to go hungry and to empathize with people who feel hunger on a regular basis. Second, we learned to think about how we could help others less fortunate than us.
The money we saved from our weekly soup lunch was put into a philanthropy fund. We took turns throughout the year researching different causes. A committee was formed to present the top five to all students and faculty. After ample questions and debate around each cause, we took a vote. During my first year, we sent our money to the Good Ship Hope. I felt personally and physically invested in our common cause.
As Thanksgiving approaches, it seems like a good time to count our blessings, and think about how we can make a difference in the lives of others less fortunate than us. It doesn’t have to be money. Showing we care can be the greatest gift.
Every day I reach out to one friend or another, by phone, email, or in person. Recently I wrote an email to a friend who’s feeling worried about her daughter, sent a book to a relative who’s battling cancer, and called another friend whose husband has been really depressed. Sometimes I see a stranger looking sad, and say hello. Showing I care, in large or small ways, feels good. It’s simple. Caring is the first step towards abundance of soul.
What are some recent examples of how you showed you care?
Just rescued a gorgeous Bronze Turkey (7 mos. old) from the farm where I board I board my pony and took him to a beautiful farm sanctuary where he’ll be safe forever. I called him, “Tommy” and he seemed right at home there. HAPPY THANKSGIVING! (gobble-gobble!)
Wonderful story Phyll. Thanks for sharing this and so much more. Happy Thanksgiving to you too! It was great to meet you.
We have a neighbor who is 84, and was painting his house and garage before winter. He is retired veteran, and thrives on taking care of himself. He is having balance problems, so he let me paint the second story of his garage. He had done everything else himself, and did most of the second story with a long pole and brush, but couldn’t reach one area. I was glad to help, and his perseverance is an inspiration to me.
Thanks for sharing this inspiring story Iain. If more people helped their neighbor in ways you describe, think how much happier we would all be? It’s not only the receiver who feels good, but the giver as well. Years ago, when I was involved in the mind/body/health field, it was discovered that people who help other people actually are healthier and happier. It’s a no-brainer, but you prove the point.
Having been raised in a family that deemed love for each other the most important element, it was natural to continue in that role as a mother myself. Our children learn by what they see . . . and hopefully, will continue on that course in their own adult lives. As a small child onward, my mother would always take me with her to what was called then “the old people’s home”. The people there seemed to adore me – which any child would love. But this was not considered even giving to others. It was just an intregral part of our lives. I have noticed that my own children, in their own private ways, have taken off where I left off. They are “naturals” , saying little or nothing but always being there for others, making me proud to the extents they will go.
What we do truly should be done with the inner feelings of love. Yes, I give to very selective charities as I was in the funding world for a number of years. But writing a check – as against doing something on a one-to-one basis – is like night and day. I may do both, but my happiness comes from “the giving of self”. As we all have – at times – been on the receiving end when life has given us some hard blows, we know how much the love and caring and caregiving means.
I don’t think about it too much. Each day is a new day and — as my mother did — others know I can be counted on and will be there for them. Something within me leads me forward to be all I can be — and a lifetime of experience has made me quietly good at helping. I can be counted on, I do not share confidences, and if I stopped to think about it, I would say that I learned as a child – only from observing and never from lectures.
But I will end where I began. Love of family and their needs must come first. And in earlier years I found at times I had to stop in my tracks from taking on too much that was outside the inner circle. But once you have the family stability firm, then “a full life” means used to be called “doing for others” but I think now is thought of as “giving of self”. Either way, you end up with a full heart.
And what could be better?
I fully agree with you Joan, and thanks for sharing such an important point, namely the power of good modeling. What your parents did with you, you have modeled to your children. The result is you are all part of a legacy of contribution to society. I admire you and your family. And as my tomorrow’s post will underscore, nothing is so important as the gift of time.
I also was a student at North Country School where giving, whether it be money, help or love was and is the way for all who are there.
While I was in the school there was an opportunity to have a student come from Africa. He could only come if each student paid Thirty-two dollars towards his tuition. It felt so perfect and natural thing to do. Jeff, that was the name he selected when he came to the United States rather than his native name, was a wonderful contributor to life at the school. He, I and the entire community benefited from that monetary contribution.
When I graduated from the school my Father and I went to the local bank in the community where we lived and I opened a checking account. The first check I ever wrote was to the Annual Fund at the school.
To me that was a mountain of money when my allowance had been twenty to twenty five cents each week. It felt good doing it.
To me I try each day to give to my community, the environment and myself in a growing and loving way.
Life should always have the bedrock of love.
Beautifully expressed, John. I couldn’t agree with you more.
I love the image of “bedrock of love,” John. Thanks for sharing such a meaningful story of your first act of philanthropy. Naturally, I share your enthusiasm for the cause of North Country School. It is a good reminder that good nurturing can come from unexpected places and it doesn’t always have to be our parents, even though we’re lucky if we get both!
I am reading your biography and think your feelings and thoughts are well thought through. I, too, loved where I summered with family on Cape Cod. Much of my relationship with my mother involved swimming in the beautiful sea, together, walking by the beach, knitting,preparing meals for the family, or the two of us, visiting Mrs. Weeks shop to buy yarns for my summer projects. Chase wasalso part of my professional life, when I worked in NYC for The NYT Co. !
Thanks for writing, Elaine. Your descriptions bring me right through the door of your childhood. I enjoyed very similar summers, as you know. I love the wisdom written in one of my favorite children’s book, “Miss Rumphius,” by Barbara Cooney, that children should (paraphrased:) “grow up by the sea, visit a far off place, and return to make the world a more beautiful place.”
Nice to hear of your association with the Chase too!
Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I have suggested to a few dear friends that they read your book because of your love and interaction with nature on many levels and because you continued to value family and “celebrate”. As for remembering a favorite childhood book, I choose to think of the many wonderful books I read to my two sons. We sojourned to the nearby bookstore on a regular basis and bought a book! The libraries were a great resource, too and I developed a shoulder ache that never leaves from carrying home children’s books in a well worn patched material bag… My Mother told me that when I was 2 years old, she took me to the Boston Children’s Library, put earphones on me and I listened to a children’s story!! I love her story and am charmed by the exquiste children’s library in Boston in Copley Square… By the way my dear aunt Barb and her two sisters are Middlebury College alum!!! I walk with aunt Barb every summer along “our” special beach and I shed a tear for the sweetness of family memories. I am so lucky!
HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all. Elaine
And Happy Thanksgiving to you Elaine. Glad to know about the Middlebury connection! Libraries are indeed a great resource, one of the many ways in which we can share with each other the things that make a difference in our lives.
With gratitude for the sharing of experiences in this blog, Eileen
HAPPY THANKSGIVING. My experiences with fund raising include participating in drives for my alma mater, Wheaton College,Norton, MA, United Fund, World Affairs Council, local school activities and the like. Your wealth enables you to enjoy a large scale of effort, if you so wish. My participation has been small, even with a matching gifts contribution. It is to your credit that you have decided to share your wealth by embarking on worthwhile projects to enhance life for “others”. Coincidentally, I lunched with an alum on Friday who receives funds from a Buffet family member’s philanthropic fund account; thereby, enabling my alum friend an opportunity to teach through a program run by a nearby university! Wealth gives, cares and takes care. Looking forward to meeting you sometime! Elaine
Hi Elaine. Sounds like you have a lot on your plate. I fund-raised for years and I know what dedicated and difficult work it is. But as long as you believe in and are passionate about your cause, it makes it more rewarding. It’s nice when another person’s means match the same interest as that for which you’re asking. Thanks for what you’re doing. And Happy Thanksgiving to you! Eileen
Thank you for the reply. I am so impressed with the personal way you reach out to your blog readers. It is consistent with the person you described in your biography. By the way I am not fund raising at this time. The activities I mentioned were those I took on in past years. I know you and your family have many interests– philanthropic, cultural, educational, business, etc.. It is clear that you take on responsibility with a genuine gusto. Thank you for reaching out. I am planning to drop off some food baskets at the church during this holiday season. My job search has to be refueled and my New Year’s resolution is to begin working for pay!!$$ Enjoy our American holiday to its fullest. Happy Thanksgiving. “Bonjour”, Elaine
Good luck to you Elaine. May you find what you need and what fulfills you. Blessings, Eileen
Thank you for responding. I know you count your blessings. I am lucky to have found meaning in this complicated world. Do you attend the lighting of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center, Williamsburg festivities, Asia Society, etc.. I send my greetings and thanks to you. I am reading the letters of ANne Morrow Lindberg. She was a gifted writer. Elaine
HI Elaine, I don’t usually attend those tree lightings but I appreciate such traditions as a means for families to come together. Nice to hear you’re reading the letters of Anne Morrow Lindberg. I met her several times and she was just as nice as her writing. I’ve since met her daughter, Reeve, also a fine writer. Happy holidays to you, Eileen
You are kind to reply. Yes, AML touched my heart with all of her writings. I think it is that she has a clear unihibited intelligent emotional world and is able to write about feelings, her ” female world”. She did not seem to compete with Charles; rather, she pioneered on her own in the same turf! How interesting that you have met so many interesting people in your life time. I found the book written by one of the DuPont children ( the daughter who went to Yale’s Child Development Graduate School ) to be special, too. I love WInterthur and Williamsburg at Christmas. Elaine p.s. My husband Kent graduated from Prunceton, ’67… small world… coincidence has its providence… Elaine