What Really Matters

helping handI’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be financially secure lately, and what kind of responsibilities that brings.  Probably because of the Get Rich Slowly audition, I guess.  Although, being a financial analyst means money is never really far from my mind.

I find that I often take the things I have for granted.  I know that I’ve often found myself concerned with buying a home, or paying for my education, or “needing” new clothes for my job, and I don’t take into account the fact that something like 40% of the people on the planet live on less than $2 US a day.

That’s mind-blowing to me.  And, we’re not talking about places where $2 could even buy a decent meal; this is abject poverty.

I know I need to be thankful more often than just the fourth Thursday in November.  One of the ways that I try to keep this in mind is by giving.

Philanthropy is at the heart of any successful life.

It’s just that I’ve gotten to the point where I find it easy to give money to causes and institutions I support.  It’s become a mindless thing for me.  Every time I get paid, I write a check.  It’s a habit.  I don’t say this to toot my own horn.  I’m sure that many of you are in the same situation.

I’m sure you’ve all heard the proverb, “Give a man a fish, and he eats for today.  Teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime.”  I’m a big proponent of teaching people how to fish.  The thing is, that kind of philanthropy involves giving much more than money. It requires our most precious of resources.

It requires our time.

We have to get involved in other people’s lives to teach them how to fish.  It’s a lot more personal that simply writing a check.  You need to develop relationships and share insights with the folks you’re helping.

You put yourself out there, and more often than not, you don’t get anything tangible back.

But there’s a change that goes on inside of you.  A change that makes you a more attentive individual.  You become more attuned to seeing needs in other people, and you begin to focus less on your own.

I feel like maybe I need to do something more.  I’m getting to a place where I want to “give till it hurts”, or at least until it’s inconvenient.

Being satisfied in any situation is a sign that it’s time to push yourself further.  When it stops being challenging, you stop growing.  I’ve found I’m not doing enough to focus on other people besides myself.

I firmly believe that focusing on others makes you a better person.  It brings growth that no amount of personal development can possibly bring.  Not that the stuff I’ve written about before on this blog isn’t important; it is.  It’s just that reaching out to someone in need doesn’t just help you.  It helps another person.

It can provide dignity and honor to someone for whom those traits have been in short supply.

So, tomorrow I’ve scheduled a meeting with some folks in my local area who are doing some great things in trying to combat corruption in political leadership around the world.  It’s an area that interests me, and I’m going to make an effort to start doing more than just giving money to causes I care about.

Maybe this issue isn’t something that you’re concerned about.  That’s okay.  There are plenty of organizations out there that need your help, with all kinds of different agendas and areas of concern.  The common denominator is they’re all trying to make the world a better place.

Join me, won’t you? Take this opportunity to really think about some causes that are important to you.  If you don’t currently financially support some of those causes, start.  It doesn’t have to be much; most causes need all the financial help they can get.

And, if you can’t afford to give money (and even if you can), consider giving time.  It’s the most important thing you can do to really start being your best.

Let us know of some practical ways you can begin volunteering your time and money in the comments.

7 thoughts on “What Really Matters”

  1. I tried to make a post via the Guest Post, but it's getting hung up. I wrote:
    Everybody needs to give back to their community in some form or another. Something that is dear to my heart is the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. This is my third year that I have signed up to walk the 39 miles over two days in Los Angeles, CA. It is a wonderful experience walking with several thousand other walkers all with the same concern. It's personally very rewarding raising money to help those with breast cancer get the treatments they need when they are underserved or don't have insurance. A $30 donation gets a woman who has started chemo a wig to wear when her hair starts to fall out. I am the team captain of the Warm Hearts and there are 10 of us this year walking in September. We each are committed to raise $1,800 and have rasied over $13,000 this year so far. We are still short of our goal and would love to extend an invitation to any of your readers to click on the link and read our stories and donate any amount to one of our team members who has not reached their goal yet. With your help we can make a difference.

    Here is the link: http://info.avonfoundation.org/site/TR/Walk2009/L

  2. I've got a great way for your readers to help. It's a charity called AFRICAID that trains teachers for work in rural villages in Nigeria. The girl who started this project, when she was 11 years old, went to school with my son. Her name is Ashley, and she recently graduated from Harvard, having given a full year of her life to living in Nigeria and teaching girls herself. Education helps in so many ways, and the way you can help now is to go to this site: http://www.changemakers.com/en-us/educationafrica

    Then, register, and VOTE for AFRICAID.

    Your vote will help this charity earn grant money to continue its mission, so it really is important.

  3. Arrgh! The comment system isn't working too well today. My friend Daniel tried to post this comment:

    Charity is one of the most exciting opportunities I've had doing my Vinyl Art. My wife and I aren't in the best of financial situations, and with a baby on the way, our stress level is up. But with my art I get to give back.

    In fact, coming up shortly I'm going to have a show at 6 local used media stores, Bookmans. $50 of every piece I sell or get commissioned during the show will go straight to Ear Candy Charity which provides musical instruments to kids programs. Give them the tools. Those are the charities I like. Nate at Ear Candy is on the same wavelength as me about getting creative types together to help out, thinking big.

    I also have a series of pieces, the EC collection, which the buyer gets to pick a charity to give $100 of the $175 to, $75 to me for the piece. This way the piece becomes the conversation piece both about the music, my art, AND the charity. A way to gather, indeed.

    I hope your efforts find growth for you and positive change for the cause.



  4. I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala and it was an incredibly eye-opening experience, as you said seeing people living on the small change we throw at lattes. While I sold out and came back to the corporate world, one of my buddies went to work for Coffee Kids http://www.coffeekids.org/ , which helps the kids who pick our daily cup of Joe.

  5. Wow! Lots to think about. It saddens me that as younger generations get more distracted with technology that less time and effort is spent in helping others. Thank you again for the thought provoking post. I will contemplate what you have shared and plan a way to change so I can make a bigger difference.

  6. I believe that everything that comes our way is there to teach us something – and it applies to the people you meet too.

    When you see something that "hits" you – something that you feel is wrong, stop and think how would you like it to be if this was a perfect world. Then reflect what can you do immediately to help make it so and do it.

    The little things we can do immediately are like an oil poured on our blockades – the brakes that stop us from helping. When you help one, two, three times – doing little stuff you open up and find ways to help more and better.

    "The journey of thousand miles starts from one step"…

    If you meet a beggar, the best thing you can do to help is to sit with him for a moment, talk about his life, try in your head to put yourself in his shoes and think about what help you'd want to get if you were in his position. Then just do to other as you'd want them do unto you if you were to swap your places in life.

    The lesson you'll learn from it will be invaluable. Your world will suddenly enlarge and become all encompassing. It's hard to explain – it's something to experience.

    One word of caution. All this is based on an equilibrium between being selfish and selfless, being separate and all encompassing. Trent from 'The simple dollar' covered it nicely talking about the fulfillment curve: http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2008/10/03/some-th

    In other words – keep it healthy or you'll burn out

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