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The secret of living is giving!

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So here we are mid-December, a few weeks from Christmas & right smack dab in the heart of giving season.

Traditionally we start feeling the stress of “what to get” for our spouses, our kids, our parents or siblings or relatives or maybe friends and co-workers, right?…. this is the “gift-giving season” in all its over-indulgent, make sure to get a gift-receipt, OMG I can’t find anything for so-n-so, glory.

This is also the one time of year that some or maybe most of us, take the focus off ourselves & our loved ones…. Just a little bitjust for a brief moment… to think about doing something for some of the less fortunate ones in our communities, or maybe even further out in our State or Country, right?

And we may have a few grand thoughts of doing something big or something that seems significant to us in our minds, you know, like helping out distribute food at a soup kitchen, or deliver meals to homebound seniors or finding a family in need and buying all their kids gifts for them….I know I have had these grand thoughts myself almost every year…..but in reality, the thought usually gets kicked down the road until Christmas is here or almost here, and we either settle on something on a smaller scale (like a little heftier check in the collection plate at church, or one last-minute bag of clothes dropped off at Salvation Army)… or we just decide to skip it altogether (because we’re just too darn busy, aren’t we?) and resolve to doing something better NEXT YEAR… does any of this ring any red- kettle bells???

I got a “pop-quiz” for you…. Do you know what J.K. Rowling, Tony Robbins, Pitbull (the singer), Sir Richard Branson, Michael Jordon, Bill & Melinda Gates, Elton John, Oprah, Mark Zuckerberg and Warren Buffet all have in common?

They are all “philanthropists”

Now I must confess, up until I was in my early 50’s, I honestly didn’t know what a “philanthropist” was… I didn’t…. I had always heard the big names like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet tied to the designation of philanthropist and just figured it was a job- description for people with shit-loads of money…really… I would see it as a “title” after their name & just assumed it was their new “billionaire” title.

But as I read lots of books & listened to lots of audio recordings, podcasts and trainings from successful entrepreneurs & business leaders, I got a better vision of what that word “philanthropist” really meant.

Let’s start with a dictionary definition: philanthropist

  1. a person who seeks to promote the welfare of others, especially by the generous donation of money to good causes.

In short, a philanthropist is someone who donates their money, experience, time, talent or skills to help others and create a better world. Though we often think of a philanthropist as someone who has millions of dollars to donate, you don’t have to be a famous philanthropist with a huge net worth to qualify.

Andrew Carnegie was famous for his quest to spend the first half of his life acquiring wealth & the second half giving it away to where it would benefit the most & do the least harm.

Sir Richard Branson has committed to giving to half his $5.4 billion fortune away through his non-profit Virgin United in the next 5 years.

Tony Robbins has been on a mission since his teenage years to feed the hungry, he has provided over 500 million meals to those in need, with a goal to feed 1 billion people.

Important fact here… it’s not the amount of wealth in dollars that makes them charitable, it’s the amount of desire in their hearts & minds to do something for those less fortunate, and to make a difference in the world…. To serve others as much as possible. If fact most of these well-known people find their true drive to be successful is directly tied to how much they can serve others, and ultimately make a substantial difference and improve our world.

The concept of being a philanthropist is the same if you make $40k or $400k or $4 million a year, it’s just the percentage of your income, wealth or time that you can comfortably donate to a bigger cause than you.

That means the only difference between people like you & I, and let’s say Pitbull (besides the ability to make it look & feel like Miami wherever he is) is the dollar value of the contributions made, not the “value” or “impact” on someone’s life we can make. The QUANTITY of there giving may be more than you or I can match, but the QUALITY of giving, and the QUALITY of impact on others can be equal.

Now I know what your thinking… yeah, if I had millions & didn’t have to worry about making a check to feed my family, I could be charitable just like those “big shooters” …. right…. wrong… you don’t need to charitable at their levels, but you can be charitable at YOUR level… regardless of your income level.

But how? ..actually there are very small things that most anyone can do, that can make an impact on someone in need, it doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, it can be very small, but effective.

For as little as a dollar & change, you can make someone’s day, which could set there whole day in better direction, hell… it could start a chain reaction of random acts of kindness. The next morning you’re in the drive-thru at let’s say McDonalds, after paying for your coffee, pay it forward and pay the tab for the person behind you in line. They will be pleasantly surprised and possibly be inspired to do it for someone else, and it will make you feel great too!

Or next time you get your car repaired, when you go to pick-up your vehicle from the repair shop, stop & pick-up a box of bagels, donuts or cookies for the shop… trust me, they will be appreciated (as they don’t get that a lot!).

Donate a couple bags of good clothes to a local shelter or Vietnam Vets, or maybe some warm coats to your local church or fire dept.

Here’s something I have done a few times, instead of sending a gift card to someone that probably will just let it sit on their dresser until next Christmas & then re-gift it anyways, take that $25 or $50 to the grocery store, spend about 20 minutes trying to find the best deals on non-perishable items (usually store-brand is cheapest) and try to see how much food you can buy for that amount. Then donate it to a local food bank or community collection facility. Once again, it will feed many & gives you a great feeling as well!

Buy some kids toys and find a local Toys-for Tots drop-off location.

Adopt a family for Christmas to buy gifts for, try Salvation Army or call 211 (Human Services Hotline) or go to www.volunteermatch.org

One thing I will be doing, and I would highly suggest if you do nothing else, please do this, sometime in the next couple weeks, when you get a to-go order from your favorite restaurant (that hasn’t actually gone out of business yet) give an extra $50 -$100- or $200 “tip”.

Those places are barely surviving right now, and that “tip” could make the difference on whether or not a waitress can survive another week.

Listen, at this time in our lives, with all that has transpired in the wake of this pandemic, our friends…our neighbors… the hard-working people in our community that have provided goods & services that we enjoyed for years, are more effected than we can imagine and need our help more than ever.

If there ever was a time to be a little extra charitable, to act a little more like a philanthropist, to open your heart and your wallet a little more boldly… this is the time…. This is the season.

Chances are if your one of the “essential” workers, or “essential” businesses that has stayed working through all of this, you may have a little extra to share…. When you think about it, you probably will be spending less on gifts (with fewer relatives coming to visit), no parties to pay for (at home or at your shop) and just think of the money we all saved by not traveling this year or taking a vacation… you see where I’m going with this, right?…. in a nutshell, we probably all could be just a bit more generous this season…. I know for sure that I will, I hope you will be too!

So just like the ripple-effect a small pebble has when tossed into a still pond, your simple act of just buying a coffee for the person behind you in the drive-thru, can have a far-reaching ripple effect on the world around you!

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