A personal slump recently dimmed my holiday lights. It’s not as easy for me to share the wealth as it was ten years back. When our economy turned, my wealth transformed from monetary to experience. Experience shaved expenses to just pay the bills. Some of those sheared expenses included shopping for toys and clothes for the children who don’t even have a roof where Santa’s sleigh can land; or savoring the smile of a mother who knows elves won’t fill her pantry when our human elves delivered enough holiday food at her door to get her though many a cold winter night. I want to buy coats for the coatless, lay blankets down for the blanket-less, and give away new books.
If my bank account was like Oprah’s…or if a lottery ticket had my name on it, I would share, share, share and be a better person.
Since when did how much donated monetary wealth make one a better person? After all, the word philanthropy is not owned by the likes of folks with the last names of Carnegie, Gates, or Rockefeller. Philanthropy’s origin was crafted about 2500 years before the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation by the Greek playwright Aeschylus. In the play Prometheus Bound, philanthropos tropos explained the “humanity loving” character, Prometheus, who gave away the gift of fire to the primitive humans that dwelled in fear as night darkened their world. It was a life-enhancing gift.
Fire didn’t cost Prometheus a dime or a drachma.
And if I followed the logic that the bigger the donation the better the person, then all those children without roofs, and mothers with empty pantries would be lesser persons.
The Gates and Buffets are the few. I can’t compete. And if it was competition then I’d lessen the value of what I donated. So I’ve searched ways that fill Santa’s sleigh with meaning, not means. Giving is as simple as listening to an old person’s story, sharing our favorite music, writing a note expressing our respect and care for another, or encouraging a child’s curiosity.
Lately I’m blessed with the company of philanthropists. They’d be the last persons on earth to even use the word because they are too busy nurturing, sharing, volunteering, weeding, planting, donating, and teaching.
The energy from these modern-day philanthropos tropos characters rekindled my holiday lights.