Philanthropy – a word from Greek origin that translates to “ for the love of mankind”.
Philanthropists are generous, donating time and/or money where profit is not a motive. This idea, though still at the core of philanthropy, is evolving. Everyday people use their buying power to effect change when they support organizations that ‘give back’, are local (less environmental impact), support fair-trade, etc. I call it ‘conscious consumerism’ and you see it everywhere these days. Many businesses have it built into their philosophy where employees are paid to donate time for a cause, where corporate sponsorship, business-lead fundraising (think of 5km runs for cancer, walks for muscular dystrophy etc.) are the norm. So how does this relate to parenting?
It comes down to mindset. Who comes to mind when you think of a philanthropist? You may think of Andrew Carnegie for which Carnegie Hall in New York City is named, or Bill Gates and his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, among others. Both Carnegie and Gates were wise businessmen, set on amassing fortunes often before their generous spirit was sparked. The kind of philanthropy they and many who amass millions are associated with comes with brand or name recognition, and there’s nothing wrong with that, often a name helps attract and initiates further generosity, which is great. Carnegie believed his purpose (and that of industrialists) was to first accumulate wealth and to follow that by distributing the wealth to benevolent causes. In 2010, Bill and Melinda Gates, along with Warren Buffet launched the Giving Pledge, a commitment by the world’s wealthiest to dedicate most of their wealth to philanthropy. Though I have certain issues with the Gates Foundation (why not make computers that don’t become obsolete is what many argue and I would agree), the Foundation does amazing work in so many fields across the globe. But what about your neighbor, who picks up two other kids from your street afterschool and looks after them, free of charge, until thier working parents come home? Take a look in the mirror. What about you?
Since working on a book on philanthropy with Gena Rotstein of Dexterity Ventures (www.dexterityventures.ca) how I look at philanthropy and the work I do as a parent has been changing. I would’ve never thought myself a philanthropist before. Sure, I’ve donated dollars to support friends and colleagues in their donation pledges and I’ve run in a number of charity runs, but that wasn’t philanthropy, or so I though. It counts of course, but in my mind that wasn’t real philanthropy. The writing I’ve been doing with Gena Rotstein has been about actualizing what philanthropy can glean from a business – asking questions, having a goal and strong vision, being accountable – these are just a few business applications that are reshaping the landscape of philanthropy and have reshaped how I began to look at parenting as a kind of philanthropy. I’m donating LOTS of time and energy to raising a decent human being – one who is courteous, mindful, respectful, brave, thoughtful, inquisitive, playful, and innovative. This is not for personal gains alone. My son is going to outlive me of course, but before that his outreach is going to extend way beyond my personal world. Am I parenting so I can boast that he has manners and gets good grades? Not at all.
When you think about, it’s not a stretch, to see that when we engage in mindful parenting (and yes, that clause is important because I don’t think it’s applicable always, like when I let the TV run, I’m not being mindful though that’s ok too), aren’t we doing so “for the love of humankind?”
I’m not suggesting anything beyond opening up our minds to what parenting is. That in those tough moments when things don’t seem to being going right, when he’s not listening, when you are pressed for time and struggling to find patience to be kind when your kid is shouting no at you and you strive to look beyond the scene playing out in front of you. Think of me. Think of your neighbours. Think of your children’s future acquaintances. Go beyond that scene, take a breath and then respond. What happens when you think, this is not about me, or him, but how can I act here, now, that will change our future interactions for the better? This is philanthropy at it’s core – generating time, a huge dose of patience to practice asking how your actions can move beyond solving the immediate to solving the immediate AND effecting change in the future. Sounds pretty great doesn’t it? You act in a way that gets you out of a bind but is also generous to everyone else around you by engaging with your child in a way that suggests accountable actions (both yours and his) in the future. It’s a pretty great investment. It’s hard to see it like that sometimes, but it’s helped me in some of those moments and I offer it here, as possibly helping you step beyond a tense scene for a great cause: for you, your child, for me. For the love of humankind.
*For more doses of the philanthropist mindset Kim is starting a Daily Donation on her blog WhiteSpaceBlackArt.com where you can find generous spirit motivators useful to parents and non-parents alike and information on various charities doing work in all realms of outreach that have to do with our future: children.