That Encouraging Spirit of Collective Philanthropy
We have all witnessed those heartwarming and faith-restoring displays of some determined collection of people coming together around a worthwhile cause and doing something—donating money, fundraising, contributing time and energy and effort—to bring about some favorable result.
Sometimes such causes can capture the national, or even international, spotlight.
More often, however, they are local in their focus: rallying round a family in the neighborhood that’s experienced misfortune or calamity; assisting a widow who needs firewood split and stacked for winter warmth; a roving band of do-gooders on four-wheelers—plow-blades affixed to each machine—clearing snow from the driveways of the elderly; or even just a burly foursome who all come on the run to push a hapless motorist out of a snowdrift.
Sometimes the cause is civic in nature: joining the city’s volunteer fire department, or sitting on a committee to plan a big community event, or maybe even signing up to help save an old, historic, turn-of-the-century school building in the center of town from dilapidation and eventual destruction.
None of these examples are hypothetical; I have witnessed or experienced each of them in just the past few weeks… including that last one.
Deciding to save a beautiful, old, architecturally significant school building is not quite like that summer my young friends and I resolved to build ourselves a clubhouse. It takes more than just canvassing the neighborhood to scavenge a few dozen warped boards and a bucket of rusty nails. And it takes more than a couple Saturdays of collectively haphazard labor.
Saving and restoring an old building requires years of concerted community effort. It takes many dozens and dozens of volunteers, donating many hundreds and hundreds of hours.
It takes vision and dedication and a steely resolve in the face of the occasional setback, or roadblock, or the naysaying of those cynical onlooking skeptics.
Such an undertaking requires grassroots organizing and coalition building over several decades; it takes 40 years’ worth of cajoling and persuading and motivating; it takes the raising of funds, the writing of grants, the seeking of loans, and the keeping of promises.
It takes year after year of careful, painstaking restoration work, encountering mold and bats and asbestos along the way.
But, finally, after all those years of collective effort, and after all those countless meetings, and fundraisers, and work parties, and miscellaneous events, it happens… something deeply rewarding and profoundly gratifying.
After all this, you might get to hand a big, golden key (actually made of cardboard, but spray-painted a shiny, lustrous gold) to your city’s smiling mayor, symbolizing the handover of this beautifully restored building to your local municipality, and then share celebratory cake together in the foyer of that very building.
You didn’t do this. But you helped. Together with so many other civically and historically minded members of the Friends of Historic Spring City organization. And you are lucky enough to be there to experience that exultant moment of ultimate triumph, when the very last check is written to pay off the very last loan.
You are there to experience the thrill of handing over that oversized, cardboard key, and to revel in the satisfaction of having played a small part in accomplishing something significant, something positive—a lasting legacy of what collective vision, and resilience, and unswerving dedication, can accomplish, even if only in your little corner of our very wide world.
Such collective effort toward a common goal can make a real difference—can cheer peoples’ spirits, and give them hope, and restore their general faith in humanity.
So, whatever you’re doing to contribute to the greater good, to infuse some positive karmic energy into our weary world; whether on a big scale or small; whether meticulously planned or on a sudden impulse, whether with contributions of money or of time… thank you!
You are improving our shared human experience; you are being the change you wish to see in our world; and you are inspiring the rest of us to want to be better.