It’s a funny but very beautiful word. By definition, it means something along the lines of love for humanity. In essence, it’s as much about what giving does for the beneficiary as well as the benefactor.
Australia is a rich and pretty generous country. Many will say we don’t give enough international aid, some will say we don’t help our own sick, indigenous or struggling families, some will say we do as much as we can. But I reckon we can do more and I reckon the best way to do more is to focus not so much on what philanthropy does for the beneficiaries – to me that seems pretty self-evident – but what it can do for the benefactors. By benefactor I don’t mean a rich banker who donates $5 million to a university or art gallery, I mean you and me – average people who have the chance, the opportunity to love humanity a little more and feel uplifted by taking a little time, maybe spending a little money to help our fellow humans.
On Monday I helped host an event at Martin Place with OzHarvest called Feeding the 5000. It was a typically ambitious event convened by the inspirational Ronni Kahn, who I have worked with for the past five years. The organisation, the wrangling, the dramas, the sheer logistics of this event have tested all of us these past few months; many of our Liquid Ideas team (even some former staff members) poured in hours during, before and after work to help pull it all together. And it seriously rocked. Queues of people waiting to be fed, great talks about sustainability, food waste, recycling, urban gardening, rescuing uneaten food and saving ugly fruit and veg.
It might sound trite but it was properly inspirational. It made you feel like you could make a difference, it made you feel like you were contributing something. It made me feel really good about stuff. And this is the thing – doing this event, and it could be any similar event, made me a better husband, dad and workmate for at least 48 hours. Then of course, I returned to being a prick.
It was a buzz, it really made me feel like we could make a difference; and maybe that’s it. Maybe we get so frustrated with our crappy political system or our silly road rules that we create massive lists of hate and we focus a little too much on the crap and not enough on the possible, the good, the inspiring. A day like this makes you realise there is awesomeness out there, and that you can make a difference. That giving feels awesome, just like your mother said.
But here’s the thing, you have to give to something that enriches humanity – that helps people you don’t know. It’s not about working for the local footy club, building jolly school a new boatshed or ensuring no Cranbrook boy need ever suffer a soft tissue injury again by replacing the turf on the main oval…that stuff is grist for the mill; it should be part of your everyday life. That’s not philanthropy, that’s merely contributing.
Get philanthropic – it doesn’t matter if it’s buying a copy of The Big Issue, helping the hospital, volunteering at a shelter or sponsoring a child. It needs to be more than just cash; it needs involvement and time, your most precious resource. Forget how you will make the beneficiaries feel; be selfish, think of yourself. Stop and realise how good it makes YOU feel.
Cos here’s the thing, it doesn’t matter bugger all what the motivation is, it just matters that it is done. If we all do something truly philanthropic every now and then, this whole society would just be a slightly more awesome place. People would smile more, no-one would get cross in car parks, traffic lights would synchronise, golf would become easy and the Swans would win the flag…again.
Give now. Humanity will thank you.