Monday, May 21, 2012

STEP FIVE: Pay It Forward. The Art of Philanthropy Is More Than Simply Writing a Check.

Urban Ministry of Greensboro stages events, has volunteer
 opportunities, and always needs food donations.

    When we think about giving back the first thing that pops into our minds is money. It is generally understood that a donation to your favorite institution or charity is made in the form of cash or check. It's also the easiest way to give. You can hand a dollar to the homeless man on the corner, tithe to your church with a automatic monthly bank withdrawal, or put a gift to your favorite charity on your credit card. Money is quick, effective and it makes everyone is happy.  But no matter how generous the donation, this gesture of giving sometimes feels a bit hollow.
Horsepower Therapeutic Riding Center combines 
challenged children with gentle horses for real healing.
    In my mind the most rewarding generosity is realized through the selfless contribution of time, energy and compassion. Whether it is volunteering to collect donations for local food bank, giving your time as a dog walker at the animal shelter, or playing the piano for residents at a nearby nursing home, you are giving something priceless, personal and sincere to those on the receiving end. You also come away with the genuine knowledge that you have made a real difference. The shelves of the food bank will be full, an abandon dog's tail will be wagging because he feels loved, a lonely senior citizen hears a tune from happier times and smiles at the memories. Giving of yourself and a couple hours out of your day can be satisfying as well as significant.
Volunteer or give pet supplies and food at the Guilford County Animal Shelter
       Paying it forward is also something we can practice in our daily lives, not just through organized volunteering or monetary donations. There are endless ways to incorporate acts of kindness and generosity into our exchanges at work, at home and with our friends. We only need to take a moment to to consider the feelings and needs of others to find endless possibilities. For example, you might recommend a colleague for a special project because of his unique talent, or  you could share some one-on-one time with your summer intern teaching a few tricks of the trade. It is as uncomplicated as one person helping another, and might just make a lasting difference in someone's life. At home, a busy mom can turn off her cell phone when she picks up her kids from school so she can listen uninterrupted as they talk about their day. Giving fifteen minutes of undivided quality time to children, grandchildren or spouse is a simple gesture that soothes, comforts, and insures them of your love and support. You can be certain that unspoken generosity is contagious. The courtesy will be passed along. If a friend is battling an illness, whether just a cold or something more serious, pick up the phone instead of sending an email to express your concern, or drop by to see if you can run an errand or to drop off a quart of your famous chicken soup. Corny as it may sound, that soup made with love can bring a smile and some genuine comfort. Sharing a few moments of time is a precious gift in our self-possessed world.

Chicken soup can heal a cold and the soul
when made with love by a friend
     I believe that to be a true philanthropist, we must give in many ways, not just one. Money is the necessary fuel that keeps all charities and organizations in operation, so write those checks whenever you can. Giving personal time and energy as a volunteer helps the cause and give hands-on gratification in return. There is great joy to be found in doing for others. Living our daily lives with genuine consideration for those we love as well as the strangers around us is often the most life-altering gift of all, and it won't cost you a dime. Whether it's a hand out or a hand up or a warm smile, you can make someone's life a little better by giving, and make your own life more meaningful.


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