When we hear about someone giving back to the community it’s usually a business or someone who can afford to part with large sums of money. Yet it’s the individual person who giving back, unknown to the media, tends to make the biggest change in the lives of those around them.
Surplus wealth is a sacred trust which its possessor is bound to administer in his lifetime for the good of his community Andrew Carnegie
Growing up not far from where Andrew Carnegie made his fortune I heard constantly about his philanthropic gifts to the community. He was the first to publicly pronounce that the wealthy had a moral obligation to give back to their community.
In his lifetime he gave away more than $350 million, focusing his efforts in the area of education and world peace. He believed strongly in the idea of free public libraries and opened 2,509 before his death. For more on his philanthropic trusts click here.
I resolved to stop accumulating and begin the infinitely more serious and difficult task of wise distribution. Andrew Carnegie
The legacy Andrew Carnegie left behind benefits myself, my family and millions of others in a huge way. We frequent several of the museums created from his trusts and of course the public libraries are an important dimension to our lives.
More recently, the late Paul Newman began a food company, Newman’s Own which offers healthier alternatives of our favorite foods. His goal wasn’t to get rich, and he actually expected a loss from the business. With 100% of all profits going to charities, especially the Hole in the Wall camps for seriously ill children, purchasing his products allows me to give back as well to a cause that means something to me. His company has so far donated over $330 million. I especially love his salad dressings and refuse to buy any other brand!
A newer small business I recently found is Justin’s Nut butters. From their profits they support the Conscious Alliance (who donate non-perishable food to food pantries and global disaster relief efforts through art), and most of Justin’s nut butter donations goes to help residents of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation where 63% of the residents live below the poverty line (with 85% unemployment rate), teens have a 150% higher suicide rate than in the rest of the country.
So what can I do?
Henry Ford said: Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success.
It takes very little to give back. I believe I can live simply and enjoy doing for others. I have benefited many times over from the generosity of others that I feel it’s important to give back.
When I was first diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy at the age of 4, a woman in a restaurant overheard my grandparents discussing my diagnosis and gifted me with my own pony for exercise to help me keep what strength I had.
When I had lost my home and nearly all our belongings in a house fire, people from all over the area came together to help us refurnish our home. These generous gifts left a lasting impression on me.
Here are a few things I do to give back:
- I make myself available to drive an elderly neighbor to her pre-op appointments for bypass surgery. With out a car, she was stressed out about making her appointments
- My children and I used to stop and visit an elderly neighbor and invite her to dinner frequently. Her family had all moved away and she felt vulnerable and lonely. My children loved her dearly and we miss her now that she is no longer with us.
- When I find yarn at yard sales inexpensively, I pick it up and crochet scarves, hat and mittens that I donate for homeless children each fall.
- I make a yearly donation of used blankets I have found and cleaned to homeless shelters.
- For family, I offer to take my grand-children once or twice a month to give my son and his wife a night alone.
- Since moving, I began clearing an empty overgrown field for my neighbors to use, as you all know by now. We now have shady seating away from the building, community garden plots started, and open spaces for whatever activities residents want to use the area for. What started out as a hobby and something to do has now become a community gathering spot and allowed us to get to know each other better.
- When doing searches online I use good search, I am able to designate the charity or school I wish to benefit from my searching. It’s easy to do and takes no extra time out of my day.
Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes shine to the stars. Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes, the swing in your gait. the grip of your hand, the irresistible surge of will and energy to execute your ideas. Henry Ford
When you find something that excites you, your enthusiasm will infect others. Recently, my youngest grand-daughter began going to the library for story/craft time and even though just over a year old looks forward to it. Her father adjusts his work schedule most weeks so he can attend with her and her mother.
When the woman who ran the program became ill the program was going to be discontinued, that is until two women, my daughter-in-law being one, while nervous about running the program alone offered to run the program together. Their actions will continue a program that many children enjoyed weekly.
There are plenty of other ways to give back in your community without ever spending a dime.
- There is Project Linus which donates blankets to seriously ill, traumatized or otherwise in need children.
- Project100 will give you other ideas for giving back.
- Our local Michael’s craft store has a box for donated crochet or knitted blanket squares that they assemble and donate during the holidays. With only needing to knit a block or two it allows individuals with little time to make a contribution.
- The local fire department collects toys during the holidays to give to needy children
- Our banks have trees with the ages of children who might otherwise go without for Christmas. We can pick a tag off the tree and shop for one child anonymously to give them a Christmas they might otherwise not have.
- Our local elementary school takes children from needy homes shopping for winter coats, hats, boots and gloves each year who can’t afford proper winter clothing. A small donation helps them to provide for more, but they also need volunteers to help the children on the shopping day to get properly sized. A bus takes the children and volunteers to a local independent tore (not the big box) where the children get to pick the coats and such of their choice. The local store gives a large discount, charging the school only their out of pocket expenses.
We don’t need to be Paul Newman or Andrew Carnegie to be able to give back. We can live simply and spend little to nothing to help someone else in our community. How do you give back in your community/family? Do you have people in your life who give back to make your life easier as well?