Passing the Buck

Philanthropy"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
~ Margaret Mead

The title of this post may be a bit deceiving. In our society we think of passing the buck as putting the blame or responsibility for something onto somebody else. It has a negative connotation…but this post is about something quite different…Philanthropy.

Philanthropy…charity, generosity, benevolence, altruism…call it what you will, is a large part of my life. I am not saying that I donate huge sums of money to charities or causes, nor am I saying that I am unselfish in my desires. What I am saying is that helping others is a big part of what drives me in my life.

For some reason we have lost sight of what truly helps others. We have reduced the word charity almost to the point of meaning financial assistance. We have taken the point of view that the best way to help somebody is to offer financial support. Where does that come from?

I guess it really shouldn’t be all that surprising. Somehow, in our lives, we have come to see money as the solution to all of our own problems… “Things would be so much better if I only had the money to…” or “I’ll be happy when I have the money to…” Following that same thought process, of course we would believe that money would solve the problems of others.

Certainly there is a time and place where money will help somebody in their situation, but it is rarely a long term solution. It is, at best, a bandage – a temporary solution.

It is my opinion, and take it as just that – an opinion – that philanthropy is so much more that throwing some money at a situation. Philanthropy starts with a true desire to help make a situation better. It is looking for solutions to problems, and working toward implementing those solutions.

I believe that helping others is most effective when we help them to understand their situation and encourage them to see that the situation does have a long-term or permanent solution. I believe that the sharing of knowledge and working toward finding the solution is the best thing we can do for anyone. If we can help people to learn how to affect change in the situation and in their lives, we are doing what needs to be done to move this world forward.

The most useful investment in others is to share your time, knowledge, and, yes, sometimes money, to help them develop solutions to their problems.

Two things of note – personal pet peeves – Firstly, I did not use the word teach. I don’t believe that anybody can be taught anything by somebody else. We can provide opportunities for others to learn and develop, but we cannot “teach” them. True learning is a self-directed (although often guided) path to discovery.  Secondly, I did not say we develop the solutions for them. If the solution does not come, at least in part (the major part), from them, then they will not necessarily buy into it – no matter how beneficial – and it will most likely not become a permanent solution. When it is their solution, they take pride in it…they are invested…and they will more likely carry it forward, implementing and maintaining it.

If you have a desire to help others, I encourage you to take this type of approach. Help them to help themselves. Your efforts may (will) require more time and energy than just throwing a few bucks at the situation, but the results will most likely be more permanent…meaning that you will not have to “donate” to the same cause again and again.

This approach will move this world forward…one little piece at a time. Imagine if everyone did this. Everyone moving the world forward one little piece at a time would make a collective huge difference, permanently changing our world for the better.

Philanthropy is not for everyone. If it is something that you want to pursue, then do it from the point of helping to move things forward, not just patching the broken bits or covering up the problem with a little bit of money.

Do you agree with this point of view? Do you have a differing opinion? Leave a comment and let the community know what you think. All viewpoints are welcome. This is an important topic and it is something that would benefit from a discussion. We’re listening.




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